Native Americans: The First People of The Palm Beaches

Learn about the impact of Native Americans in The Palm Beaches and where you can experience this rich history.  

Okeechobee, Pahokee, Loxahatchee — Native American names are found throughout The Palm Beaches, where people have lived for at least 6,000 years and tribes like the Tequesta, Jaega, Jobe and Seminoles have made lasting impacts. Discover where you can step back into history at archaeological sites more than a thousand years old, Seminole War battle sites and local museums.

DuBois Park, Jupiter

A thousand years ago, the Jobe tribe, believed to be a subgroup of the larger Jaega tribe, thrived in an ancient village where you’ll now find this tranquil park on the Jupiter Inlet. The tribespeople were hunters, fishermen and foragers. They carved dugout canoes from cypress trees to navigate waterways in search of sharks, manatees, deer, berries and more. Today, remnants of one of the last coastal shell mounds in The Palm Beaches provides clues about how the tribe lived. This mound was originally 600 feet long and 20 feet high. Artifacts dating back several thousand years have been found here. Throughout the park, you can explore the area where the Jobe tribe once hunted, built and lived.

Built on this shell midden is the DuBois Pioneer Home, which belonged to the DuBois family, one of Jupiter’s most notable pioneer families. This “house on the hill” is open for guided tours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

DuBois Pioneer Home
DuBois Pioneer Home built atop a Jobe shell mound

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum

On the beautiful grounds of The Palm Beaches’ iconic lighthouse, across the Jupiter Inlet from DuBois Park, this museum details the local Native American tribes that lived on the Jupiter Inlet and the Spanish explorers that sailed through this strategic point. In the early 1500s, the Jaega tribe fought off Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon with arrows tipped in bone and fish spines. Later, shipwrecked merchant Jonathan Dickinson also journaled about his glimpses of the Jobe tribe.  At the museum, artifacts found throughout the Jupiter Inlet area are on display. They include stone tools, pottery and adornments made from shell and bone. Climb to the top of the lighthouse for a glimpse of some of the remaining lush landscapes the tribes called home.

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse
The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and the surrounding natural area

Loxahatchee River Battlefield Park, Jupiter

In the mid-1700s, Native peoples from Florida, as well as Alabama and Georgia, and some escaped slaves, established a community in the wilderness of South Florida, many fleeing encroachments from the Spanish and Americans. This group of free people, as they knew themselves, were eventually called the Seminole tribe. In the early 1800s, after Spain ceded Florida to the U.S., American settlers and troops clashed with and wanted to remove the Seminoles, leading to the Seminole War (often referenced as a series of three wars from 1818 to 1858).
 
In January 1838, two battles between the Seminoles and U.S. troops took place in Jupiter. During the first battle, the Seminoles stood their ground and were victorious. During the second battle, nine days later, the Seminoles were outnumbered and outgunned, but were able to flee. Throughout the 1800s, while thousands of Seminoles were removed to lands west of the Mississippi, hundreds retreated deeper into the Everglades, where they remained and still live today long after the U.S. declared an end to the Third Seminole War in 1858.
 
Today, learn about the Loxahatchee River battlefields by walking a one-mile trail and reading historic markers. The park is adjacent to Riverbend Park, where you can also see a recreated Seminole Village. Throughout the parks, walk or bike along trails, or canoe or kayak the Wild and Scenic Loxahatchee River.

Canoeing in Riverbend Park
Canoe trip in Riverbend Park

Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum, West Palm Beach

Research continues into the millennia of human habitation in The Palm Beaches and the people who thrived here long before Europeans arrived in the 1500s. There are several now-known tribes that disappeared, as well as sites of villages and mounds throughout the county. Some of these have been excavated and preserved; others have been erased through development. The Palm Beach County History Museum is home to some artifacts from excavations, as well as interpretive exhibits about the region’s earliest people.