Long before today’s culturally blended society, Florida’s Adventure Coast was populated by Native Americans. It doesn’t take long to notice the lasting evidence of those original populations in the names of locations still in use today. Many of the names trace back to the Seminole Indians, reflecting the Muskogean language family, originating as either Creek or Miccosukee.
Here is a short guide to some of those distinctive words you see around here and how to pronounce them.
Named after Sam Jones, a famous Mikasuki chief, who was called Aripeka or Aripeika. The name is possibly corrupted from Muskogee “abihka” (pile at the base or heap at the root), which was a contest for supremacy among warriors who piled up scalps, covering the base of the war-pole.
The nearly 35,000 acre Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission property, composed of the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, National Wildlife Refuge, River and Bay are often referred to simply as “The Chaz.”
The Seminole Indians were known to have been in the area during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). They gave the region the name Chassahowitzka, meaning “pumpkin hanging place.” The pumpkin referred to was a small climbing variety that is now rare and perhaps even extinct.
(Wording below is excerpted from the Chocachatti Historical Marker)
The first colony of Muskogee-speaking Upper Creek Indians from Alabama was established nearby in 1767. British surveyor/naturalist Bernard Romans identified the settlement as “New Yufala, planted in a beautiful and fertile plain.” It later became known as Tcuko tcati, or “Chocochatti,” meaning “Red House” of “Red Town.” It was here that the Upper Creek Indians were transformed into Florida Seminoles. The Chocochatti Seminoles were prosperous commercial deer hunters, traders, farmers, and cattlemen. Chocochatti town and prairie was their home for nearly 70 years.
Osowaw Boulevard originates at Commercial Way/US 19 in Spring Hill, winding southwest through Aripeka. It is a Seminole word meaning “bird.”
Seminole Indians named the waterway Weeki Wachee, which means “Little Spring” or “Winding River” in their language; the Muskogee words “wekiwa” (spring) and “chee” (little) means “little spring.”
Withlacoochee is thought to be a compounded we (water), thlako (big), and chee (little), or little big water. This word combination signifies little river in the Creek language, and as we-lako or wethlako may also refer to a lake; it may signify a river of lakes, or lake river. Withlacoochee is also said to simply be an Indian word meaning “crooked river.”
Now that you are proficient in Adventure Coast place names and their pronunciation, celebrate our rich heritage at the Brooksville Native American Festival, February 6th and 7th . This family-friendly festival will be an immersive experience featuring music, dancing, skill demonstrations, art and pageantry. Don’t miss it!