The Trail of the Lost Tribes network was originally established in 2000 as a nonprofit organization honoring Florida’s ancient people. Through its mission, the Trail informed the public about archaeological sites, museums and heritage interpreters who illuminate the pre-historic Indian cultures. The term "lost" in the name reflected emphasis on Florida’s original native people who were devastated, and were presumed to have completely vanished from the historical record in the 1500’s and 1600’s due to war, disease and persecution following European contact.
However, as the Trail network expanded, the Seminole Tribe of Florida expressed sincere reservations about the term "lost" in the organization’s name. This federally-recognized Florida Native American group, as well as scores of other Native American descendents living in Florida, do not consider themselves "lost," but alive and honoring their ancient traditions. They want to be viewed as a vibrant element of today’s diverse social fabric.
In addition, archaeologists have recently come to recognize that knowledge of the past is not just derived from artifacts excavated from the ground. By working as partners with local related Native Americans, archaeologists can significantly improve the interpretation of the ancient past for the public benefit.
And finally, and very significantly, the original native people of Florida were devastated by the effects of disease and warfare; however, remnants of the Tocobaga, Calusa, Timucua, Tequesta, Apalachee and other groups did survive and were assimilated into the Creek/Seminole and Miccosukee groups that migrated into Florida during the late 1600’s and
early 1700’s. Thus, the concept of "historic continuity" of tradition is validly claimed and revered by today’s Florida Native Americans.
In spite of attempts at removal and relocation by the U.S. government, a resistant and heroic portion of the Seminole and
Miccosukee tribes survived into modern times in Florida. Also, a group of 300 Apalachee descendents in Louisiana are seeking federal recognition as a tribal group originally located in north Florida.
For all these reasons, the concept of "lost" tribes appeared inappropriate to some Board members and discussions began about whether or not to change the Trail’s name. In November, 2006, the Trail Board sent an email to all the Trail sites, interpreters and the Trail Advisory Council, asking for a review of the above background information, feedback comments as to whether the Trail should change its name, and suggestions for a new name, if change was preferred. The unanimous decision from all responders was that the Trail should change its name.
On December 11, 2006, the Trail Board of Directors met in Port Charlotte to discuss and resolve the "name change" issue. After a spirited discussion, the Board unanimously decided to change the name, then a new name was selected for our growing organization:
Trail of Florida’s Indian Heritage
All Board members assembled agreed that the word "Trail" should remain for name recognition and the fact that, as the organization grows, the term Trail will continue to remain appropriate. "Florida" was added to be more specific to our state. Whether to use Native American or Indian came to a close decision. "Indian" was chosen following the model used by the National Museum of the American Indian and because it is a nationally-used term applied to all American indigenous people. "Heritage" was selected since it encapsulates the history, culture, language, beliefs, art and customs for the entire continuum of Florida’s Native American human habitation—from Paleo, Archaic, Precontact, Post-contact, Historic, Conflict to the Modern Era.
"Today’s Trail is not just about the ancients, but about the total sweep of time and continuity from the first humans who entered Florida to the present Native Americans here."
Roger Block, founding member Trail of Florida’s Indian Heritage