Ais. Meaning unknown; there is no basis for Romans' (1775) derivation from the Choctaw word "isi" (deer). Also called:
Jece, form of the name given by Dickenson (1699).
Circumstantial evidence, particularly resemblance in town names, leads
to the conclusion that the Ais language was similar to that of the
Calusa and the other south Florida tribes. (See Calusa.) It is believed
that it was connected with the Muskhogean stock.
Location. Along Indian River on the east coast of the peninsula.
Villages. The only village mentioned by explorers and geographers bears some form of the tribal name.
Fontaneda (1854) speaks of a Biscayan named Pedro who had been held
prisoner in Ais, evidently during the sixteenth century, and spoke the
Ais language fluently. Shortly after the Spaniards made their first
establishments in the peninsula, a war broke out with the Ais, but
peace was concluded in 1570. In 1597 Governor Mendez de Canço, who
traveled along the entire east coast from the head of the Florida Keys
to St. Augustine, reported that the Ais chief had more Indians under
him than any other. A little later the Ais killed a Spaniard and two
Indians sent to them by Canço for which summary revenge was exacted,
and still later a difficulty was created by the escape of two Negro
slaves and their marriage with Ais men. Relations between the Floridian
government and these Indians were afterward friendly but efforts to
missionize them uniformly failed. An intimate picture of their
condition in 1699 is given by the Quaker Dickenson (1803), who was
shipwrecked on the coast farther south and obliged, with his
companions, to travel through their territory. They disappear from
history after 1703, but the remnant may have been among those who,
according to Romans (1775), passed over to Cuba in 1763, although he
speaks of them all as Calusa.
Population. Mooney (1928)
estimates the number of Indians on the southeastern coast of Florida in
1650, including this tribe, the Tekesta, Guacata, and Jeaga, to have
been 1,000. As noted above, the Ais were the most important of these
and undoubtedly the largest. We have no other estimates of population
applying to the seventeenth century. In 1726, 88 "Costa" Indians were
reported in a mission farther north and these may have been drawn from
the southeast coast. In 1728, 52 "Costa" Indians were reported.
in which they have become noted. The Ais were noted as the most
important tribe of southeastern Florida, and they were probably
responsible for the fact that the watercourse on which they dwelt came
to be called Indian River.
Alabama. Early in the eighteenth century
the Pawokti, and perhaps some other Alabama bands, lived near
Apalachicola River, whence they were driven in 1708. After the
Creek-American War a part of the Alabama again entered Florida, but
they do not seem to have maintained an independent existence for a very