On February 13th, 2022, the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Museum hosted organizations and historical societies from across the state of Florida as part of Volusia County’s first Indigenous Peoples Heritage Day. More than 400 guests were treated to a day of education, remembrance, and fun. Taking months to plan, the hard-working staff of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and the guest organizations delivered wonderful presentations, educational workshops, and activities that intrigued visitors of all ages.
The Evolution of an Idea
Planning for the event was a collaborative effort within our staff. Various topics, themes, and educational activities were discussed. Enabling guests to learn more about the indigenous population that once inhabited Volusia County was the ultimate goal of this event. Research on the local indigenous groups had been performed by our staff in the past, but directing an entire event based on this research was something was a promising new experience for the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Preservation Association.
Deep Dive Research
The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Curatorial Department began researching the topic late last year. Led by Registrar and Assistant Curator Felipe De Paula, who has a background in the subject matter, the topics researched included culture, language, agriculture, warfare, and the social history of early Floridian tribes. This research developed into an article in the January 2022 edition of Illuminations, the quarterly publication of Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse Preservation Association.
Connecting with Other Organizations
While the curatorial department was hard at work with the research necessary to make this an accurate and engaging event, the programs department set out to make connections across the county with other historical associations and organizations. Our association has worked with other organizations in the past, but never with so many for a single event. Hopefully this event leads to increased cooperation between the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and local organizations in the future.
Some locations were obvious connections with the indigenous peoples of Volusia County: Hontoon Island State Park, De Leon Springs State Park, and the Friends of Tomoka Basin State Parks have each done extensive research on their own locations and have created wonderful displays on the local native groups. Their involvement with the event was immediately thought of. The inclusion of the vast Sweett Collection of artifacts from the New Smyrna Museum of History was a valuable addition to the event.
Other individuals and institutions from elsewhere in the state also participated in the event. Andrew Foster, who interprets his great-grandfather Charles Henry Coe, was one of these individuals. As described by Foster, “Coe and his family moved to Florida in 1874 and settled in New Smyrna. By 1877, he started The Florida Star newspaper, ran from the family home in what was to become Glencoe, Florida, named in honor of his father. He was a printer by trade, later an author, and took up the fight of the Florida Seminoles’ rights to stay in Florida with his book Red Patriots 1898. He lived for 98 years and did too many things to list”. Coe, portrayed by Foster, was a perfect addition to the ever-growing event.
Making sure to have the representation of the Seminole Tribe of Florida was paramount as well. Connecting with the organizations Trail of Florida’s Indian Heritage and the AH TAH THI KI Museum became the goal of the Programs Department. Connecting with these organizations led to a plethora of opportunities. The AH TAH THI KI Museum agreed to send expert canoe-maker, Daniel Tommie, as well as a display on the Seminoles as a whole.
The Day of the Event Finally Arrives
All of the pre-planning and coordination culminated on a rainy, overcast Sunday morning. The soggy conditions did not damper the enthusiastic fervor of guests, volunteers, and presenters. Just as the event began, clear skies cut through the wet morning and the event was underway.
The wonderful Ponce Inlet Lighthouse volunteers served in many roles throughout the day, including as tour guides, running the information booth, assisting guests with navigating the day, and presenting family-oriented workshops on the Timucua language and archeology.
Student volunteers from Daytona State College, arranged by Dr. Maryann Gromoll, were also present to assist during the event. Assisting throughout the day, the student-volunteers helped to coordinate presentations, set up and take down display cases, bring necessary materials to workshops, and monitor booths while presentations took place.
Historical presentations were given throughout the day, engaging guests in displays of artifacts as well as the history of the Timucua, Seminole, Mayaca, and many other native groups. These presentations included Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Lead Docent John Mann explaining the 1835 Mosquito (now Ponce) Inlet Lighthouse and its connection to the 2nd Seminole War, Tomoka Basin State Parks President Hewitt Dupont discussing the connections of state parks to the 2nd Seminole War, DeLeon Springs State Park Historian James Stone explaining DeLeon Spring’s first native peoples, Andrew Foster giving a historical interpretation of Captain Coe, as well as a key note presentations by Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Registrar Felipe De Paula on the history and ongoing research of the Timucua people and local archeological sites like Green Mound in Ponce Inlet.
The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse would like to thank the following participating individuals and organizations for contributing to the event: Hontoon Island State Park, De Leon Springs State Park, New Smyrna Museum of History, Trail of Florida’s Indian Heritage, the AH TAH THI KI Museum of Florida, Friends of Tomoka Basin State Parks, Inc., Andrew Foster, Dr. Maryann Gromoll, and our wonderful Ponce Inlet Lighthouse volunteers.
If you are interested in participating in future events such as this, please contact the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Programs Department at email@example.com or (386)761-1821 ext 18 to speak with Programs Manager Zach Hopple.