Notes on the Colusa

I intend to write about the early people of North America from time to time. I'll begin now with notes on the great Colusa people. Here on Mago Bill, I hope to write enough about the Colusa to sharpen your interest in the people we have called Indians.  

In the 1500s the Colusa still controlled much of the southwest of what is now the state of Florida. They defended their land from the aggression of others, including Europeans. The Spaniards knew them as fierce.

The Caloosahatchee River, with its mouth on the southwest of Florida, was central to their lands.

They lived mostly along inland waterways and developed them for transportation and food production. The sea was also a source of food for them. They left middens of seashells large enough in size to compete with their great mounds and earthworks. They fished with nets and also trapped fish.

The Calusa may be directly related to the Paleoindians of 10,000 BC. They had seagoing vessels and were probably related to Caribean island people as well. In later years they were famous for their wide use of seashells.

They were physically well developed and in colonial times and later were known for being 3 to 4 inches taller than the usual European man.

The Colusa had a strong influence on the tribes around them. That influence, in some part, may have been due to their wide trading network. They typically used dugouts, for use at sea and along their inland waterways. They also built and used larger vessels. They visited the island we now call Cuba regularly and almost certainly sailed much farther into the Caribbean.

Their homes were built on platforms on pilings over the water. Their buildings had particularly handsome roofing of palmetto leaves. It is said some of their buildings were large enough to easily accommodate 2000 persons. They were excellent woodworkers and they did some fine wood carving.

They were also excellent farmers, sailors, fishermen, and traders. Their large gardens were often surrounded by canals and were built up and fertilized by dredging the canals. They are probably responsible for the construction of what we have called bayous.  


Their high-level culture has been dated to well before 100 BC. Many of their middens and earthworks have been dated to at least that time. And their culture may extend thousands of years before that time.

We have much to learn from and about these people. If you have anything to say about the Colusa please add it to the comment section.


by R.C.S.

for Mago Bill