Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Where Indians Roamed: Sanibel Island

Thoughts of Sanibel bring to mind emerald green waters, gentle breezes, swaying palms and unlimited views of bird life.

An archaeological site is certainly not the first thought that one has of this secluded tropical resort, yet it is fundamental to the understanding of an island that has become a world reknowned vacation destination.

About 5,000 years ago, rushing rivers deposited an enormous amount of silt in the Gulf of Mexico forming the tropical barrier islands along the Southwest Florida coast. Its newly formed islands and bays were awash with a bountiful supply of fish and shellfish that attracted archaic peoples from across southern Florida who established a permanent settlement. These people were the early predecessors of the Calusa Indians.

The Calusa set up villages near their life source – the water. There was not enough land to grow the amount of crops needed to feed all the tribe members, so the Calusa looked to the bays, streams, rivers and Gulf and turned up a smorgasbord of shrimp, crab, trout, snook, and just about every possible delectable seafood.

Without the worry of where the next meal would come from, the Calusa were free to develop a complex society, which they did at an astonishing rate. There was a two-tier caste system, a well-armed, highly structured military and an extended noble family. Common people provided food, dug canals and labored at the construction of immense, complex shell works and water systems.

From these roots sprang the Sanibel Island that we know and love.

In 1963, a 3 mile causeway was constructed from the mainland to the eastern end of Sanibel. Soon after the bridge was completed, Sanibel incorporated, and the municipal government passed strong zoning laws, with much of the island set aside for protection. As a result, half of the land in Sanibel is designated as natural areas, with two preserves protecting the island ecology and wildlife. This preservation and conservation of land and wildlife make Sanibel a unique resort island, unlike any other in Florida and with few rivals within the continental USA.

Come and enjoy this paradise and experience the Sanibel difference!

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