Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of History

First Advisor

Dr. Denise Bossy

Second Advisor

Dr. Denice Fett

Rights Statement

Third Advisor

Dr. Keith Ashley

Department Chair

Dr. Charles E. Closmann

College Dean

Dr. Barbara A. Hetrick


This Master’s Thesis examines the ways in which the culturally distinct groups who inhabited the pre-colonial and colonial Southeast approached cross-cultural communication. The extensive and violent entradas led by Spaniards into the Southeastern interior in the 1500s represent a watershed moment in North American history that deeply impacted the economic, social, and geopolitical landscapes of an already well-populated and politically sophisticated region. The subsequent establishment of St. Augustine in 1565 and the arrival of the British in the mid-seventeenth century are similarly seen as pivotal moments in the region’s history that forced many culturally and linguistically dissimilar groups to interact. Early accounts of cross-cultural interactions are peppered with glimpses into the importance of verbal and nonverbal communication to the successes and failures of Indian and European groups and individuals in the region.

This thesis explores how different groups actually learned and utilized language and communication in pre-colonial and colonial times. It argues that Southeastern Indians remained active agents of their lives when faced with the drama and disharmony that often accompanied European settlements and the individuals who populated them. Although they sometimes borrowed communicative techniques and methods from their European counterparts when attempting to quell cross-cultural anxieties and misunderstandings, Southeastern Indians continued to rely on methods of communication predicated on maintaining balance and harmony within and between communities developed during the Mississippian period. Meaning making, performance, and communicative practice lay at the heart of this study, as do the multiple perspectives of those who contributed to these processes.