Meet Our First Neighbors and their Bountiful Neighborhood Circa 1,000 B.C.

Dated: November 7 2023

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- Honoring Native American Month -

Meet Our First Neighbors and their Bountiful Neighborhood Circa 1,000 B.C.

Imagine yourself walking along the shore of the Indian River searching for a fish to spear or a clump of oysters to collect for dinner. Our former neighbors did just this more than 3,000 years ago. Researchers have learned that a tribe known as the Ais (Ah-es) people were some of the first residents who established their settlements in the current Vero Beach area in about 1,000 B.C.

We know a fair amount about the Ais native residents thanks to Spanish explorers in the 16th and 17th centuries, but more especially from Johnathan Dickinson, whose party was shipwrecked near current day Hobe Sound after departing from Jamaica in 1696. Dickinson and his party spent several weeks with the Ais. He wrote about his experience in a journal which was later published by The Society of Friends in 1699. Fortunately, many of the tribe’s archeological sites have been located and studied which also provide important clues to the culture and lifestyle of these native people.

Although the Ais remained in the local area year-round, they traveled seasonally to meet variations in their food supply staying on the barrier island during the winter and moving inland during the summer. They stayed as close as possible to the Indian River. Evidence of their camp locations have been found along the area from Cape Canaveral and south towards Fort Pierce, however, archeologists such as Alan Brech and J.F Lanham have concluded that their primary village was near current-day Sebastian.

The Ais people lived off the abundant land and water spending time primarily fishing but also hunting for game. Their staple food was fish and oysters caught from either the ocean or the Indian River. Also on their diet were clams, snails, deer, bear, fowl, turtles, and fruits such as cocoplums, sabal palm berries, sea grapes and other gathered fruits.

The leaves from palmetto trees were used by the Ais in several ways. Their homes were thatched huts with walls and roofs made of sticks and palmetto leaves. Palmetto leaves and fronds were used as serving platters for food. Finally, the Ais used palmetto leaves as well as deer hides for clothing.

The Ais did not survive long after Dickinson's recount of the time he spent with them. Beginning in 1700, settlers began taking the Ais as slaves. In the mid-1700s, the Spanish established a mission among the Ais and with continued slave raids as well as disease, their population declined substantially.  As a result, the Ais became extinct from the area by the 1760s.

Fast forward to current times and we still enjoy the plentiful resources that our area has to offer. Whether it’s fishing, growing citrus and other vegetables or raising cattle, we are fortunate to live in a bountiful area that has sustained people for thousands of years.

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Kyle Von Kohorn

Born and raised in Vero Beach, FL, Kyle Von Kohorn is remarkably well-acquainted with this lovely coastal town and its satellite communities. After earning his degree in Business Administration at ....

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