Jekyll Island Georgia Indians

Early Georgia Indians migrated into coastal Georgia as early as 10,000 B.C.

They were hunter-gatherers, indigenous tribes who reveled in the rich estuarine resources and vast quantities of upland plants and animals they found living within the Georgia lowlands.

The first Georgia coastal Indians were nomadic people whose very lives depended on the hunting - and taking - of large game like mastodon and woolly mammoth.

They hunted them with spears - no easy feat. Many left their bones to whiten under the Georgia sun, trampled into the ground by their enraged erstwhile prey.

French artist Jacques le Moyne de Morgues first documented Native Americans living along the Georgia coast and northeast Florida in the 16th century. His illustrations show coastal Indians hunting deer, bear, bison, rabbit, turkey, squirrel and other animals - even alligator! A Georgia Indians diet was rich in meat and fat.

When the first settlers arrived in Savannah in 1733, they encountered their first Indians - members of the Creek tribe living along the river.

As the coast Indians became more sedentary, they increasingly relied on the cultivation of wild vegetables such as beans, pumpkins, sunflowers and tobacco.

Native Americans gave thanks for the harvest by participating in games, fasting and other rites. These harvest celebrations were reflected in tribal-wide events like the Green Corn Festival - maybe a harbinger of the Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival!

At first, Jekyll Island was unoccupied by any Indian tribes, serving instead as hunting grounds for several tribes. One such tribe were the Guale Indians - who called the area Ospo. They used Jekyll Island as a popular hunting and fishing site - an early game preserve.

By A.D. 1540 the Guales had settled along the entire Georgia coast, from St. Catherine's Island to Jekyll Island and into Florida, where they gave way to the Timucuan people further south. The Guale territory between St. Catherines Sound and Savannah seems to have been little occupied.

The first Europeans settled Jekyll Island during the late sixteenth century. The Spanish established a chain of missions along the Georgia coast, and preceded to convert Indians to Christianity whenever possible.

The Spanish name for Jekyll was Isla de Ballenas, or "Island of Whales," because of the abundance of right whales off the Jekyll Island coast in the Gray's Reef area.

Although there is no evidence of the establishment of a mission on Jekyll Island, archaeological studies have shown a definite occupation by Georgia Indians during this period. There is evidence that the Spanish at least explored and had contact with native peoples on Jekyll Island during this time.

The Yamasee Indians also traveled and lived in this area during the 17th and 18th centuries, before being decimated by war and eventually merging with the Creeks and Seminoles.

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