First Encounters: Spanish Explorations in the Caribbean and the United States, 1492-1570

By Jerald T. Milanich; Susan Milbrath | Go to book overview

Marvin T. Smith


10 / Indian Responses to European Contact: The Coosa Example

Acording to the accounts of the de Soto and Luna expeditions, Coosa was one of the most important native provinces encountered in eastern North America. It was a powerful and complex chiefdom society with a paramount chief who ruled lesser chiefs and their subjects.

Corn, beans, and squash were grown, and meat was supplied by hunting deer, bear, and small mammals and by fishing. The chief of Coosa was treated like a god. He was carried around on a litter, probably fed special food, and housed in a special dwelling on a mound constructed by his subjects. He commanded a large army and collected tribute from his subjects. In many ways he was typical of other chiefs in the Southeast, although his political authority probably covered more territory than most, extending over a large portion of the Piedmont and Ridge and Valley regions near the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains. Within Coosa there was also a hierarchy of villages, some towns having greater importance than others. Population size, presence of mounds, and other factors reflect differences in importance.

European contact in the province of Coosa occurred on two occasions during the sixteenth century. Hernando de Soto and his army visited Coosa for over a month during 1540, and the Sauz detachment

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