Founded in 2000 by independent heritage interpreters Karen Fraley and Marty Ardren with a goal of developing a network uniting publicly-accessible pre-Columbian archaeological sites in Florida for cross-marketing and educational purposes, the Trail of Lost Tribes (as it was then called) received immediate and enthusiastic support from managers of such sites, archaeologists, and Dr. James J. Miller, then State Archaeologist of Florida and Chief, Bureau of Archaeological Research, Department of State.
In 2001, the Trail developed along the Gulf Coast as a network of representatives of twelve archaeological sites, three heritage tour operators interpreting these sites, seven museums with pre-Columbian collections and one research center. Network members wrote the Trail's first Mission Statement:
"To promote awareness, responsible visitation and protection of the remaining cultural sites of the original people of Florida. Interpretation will engage all levels, will be consistent and based on current science to encourage heritage tourism."
In 2002, Network members voted to seek grants to produce an archaeology speaker series for the general public and a brochure to encourage archaeological/heritage tourism. Because the Trail had no legal status at this time, Time Sifters Archaeology Society in Sarasota, a chapter of the Florida Anthropological Society (FAS), agreed to write grants on behalf of the Trail to the Florida Humanities Council, VISIT Florida’s New Product Development Department, and the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation. All grants were awarded, enabling the Trail to produce a free archaeological speaker series in five communities featuring archaeologists Brent Weisman, Jerald Milanich, William Marquardt, John Worth, Karen Walker, Bill Burger, and Jeffrey Mitchem. The speaker series received strong support from academics and the general public. The Trail also produced its first full-color archaeological tourism-promotion brochure and distributed 25,000 copies free of charge through Trail sites, heritage interpreters, the convention and visitor bureaus in the 10 counties where Trail sites were located, FAS chapters, schools, and universities.
Despite having no permanent headquarters or staff, in 2003, the Trail grew beyond the Gulf Coast and enlarged to 21 sites and three independent heritage interpreters. It became a Florida nonprofit organization, formed an Advisory Council, and a voluntary Board of Directors began the process of applying for Federal non-profit 501 (c)3 status.
In 2006, the Trail changed its name to Trail of Florida’s Indian Heritage (for the history of this name change, see link below).
In 2007, with grant assistance provided by the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State, and assisted by the Florida Historical Commission, the Trail produced the booklet, “Florida Native American Heritage Trail”, which includes more than 100 destinations where visitors can experience the rich history and modern culture of Florida’s native people. This publication also provides an account of the 12,000-plus years of Native American presence and significance in Florida, and includes special interest topics and biographies of individuals important to Florida’s Native American heritage are presented throughout the publication.
As of 2010, the Trail has conducted four important archaeological speaker series and produced four editions of its popular tourism brochure, which are distributed throughout the state and at all VISIT FLORIDA Welcome Centers.
In 2010, the Trail expanded to 52 sites with the inclusion of 20 state parks that feature Native American resources. Today we have 67 sites and a growing list of non-profit members.
Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Societywww.fasweb.org/chapters/cgcas.htm
Friends of Little Salt Springwww.friendsoflittlesaltspring.com
Florida Anthropological Society www.fasweb.org
Warm Mineral Springs/Little Salt Spring Archaeological Society www.wmslssas.org
Panhandle Archaeological Society at Tallahassee website
Southeast Florida Archaeological Society www.sefas.org
TimeSifters Archaeology Society www.timesifters.org
The Trail has continued to receive generous funding from the Florida Humanities Council, the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation and VISIT FLORIDA. We are thankful for the support that allows the Trail to continue its important mission.