Marvin T. Smith
Chester B. DePratter
Twenty years after Hernando de Soto explored the interior of the southeastern United States, Don Luis de Velasco, viceroy of New Spain, charged Tristán de Luna y Arellano with the task of establishing a colony in the territory that de Soto had explored. Luna failed in this attempt, but the documentary record of his exploration sheds light on the social geography of the sixteenth-century southeastern native peoples, and it gives some indication of the changes among those people that the de Soto expedition set in motion.
The motives behind Luna's colony were somewhat contradictory. One was the plan by the Franciscan friar Andrés de Olmos to establish a series of missions on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico that would both make it possible to convert the Indians to Christianity and give refuge to Spaniards who were shipwrecked on the coast. Luna could also satisfy the promptings of some of the survivors of the de Soto expedition who advocated establishing a colony at Coosa, an Indian chiefdom in the interior, as well as the Dominicans who wanted a colony founded in the legendary land of Chicora on the South Carolina coast where there was said to be precious gems. Velasco was also hopeful that silver, gold, and mercury (used in the processing of silver) would be discovered. He knew of several individuals who,