Who Was here first?

With the rapid development and constant coming and going of new people in Miami, it can be easy to forget the original inhabitants of the land. Long before the infinite miles of interstate and population booms, before James Deering ever dreamed of building his estate, and even before Juan Ponce de Leon began his search for the fountain of youth, the land was inhabited by the Tequesta.

The Tequesta were a Native American tribe who lived in the southeastern part of present-day Florida. They lived in villages around the mouth of the Miami River and coastal islands nearly 2,000 years before the first European settlers arrived. Like other tribes in South Florida, the Tequesta were hunters and gatherers whose main food source came from the sea.

From the time the Spanish first landed in Biscayne Bay in 1565, they began their mission of trying to convert the Tequesta people to Christianity. By the 1800s, the Tequesta had all but died out, with many relocated due to diseases brought by the settlers, battles over land, and slavery.

Today, the largest archeological site from the Tequesta is the Miami Circle. It is located at what is now known as the Brickell Point Site and consists of a perfect circle cut into the limestone bedrock. The structure is believed to be around 1,700 to 2,000 years old and predates other known permanent settlements on the East Coast of the United States.


“[Royal Palm Hotel] workmen encountered a Tequesta burial mound, which probably had been in use for centuries, at the site Flagler chose for the hotel. It was located at the mouth of the Miami River, now the parking lot in front of the Dupont Plaza Hotel in downtown Miami…Sewell ordered it leveled, and the black men shown in the historic photograph of the hotel’s groundbreaking obliged him.”
Marvin Dunn, Black Miami

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