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Timeline / Colonizers and Resistance / AD 1539: Spain wages war against southeastern Native peoples

AD 1539: Spain wages war against southeastern Native peoples

A Spanish military expedition begins four years of marauding large Native settlements, ranging across the region now known as peninsular Florida to northern Arkansas and eastern Texas. Hernando de Soto (one of the conquerors of the South American Inka Empire) commands, inflicting significant casualties.

Near what is now known as Columbia, South Carolina, Hernando de Soto captures the Lady of Cofitachequi, the leader of the powerful Cofitachequi tribe. He loots her tribe’s pearls, and holds her hostage to ward off retaliatory attacks. She escapes, taking the best pearls from the looted stash.

Native Rights

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Depiction of Spaniard Hernando de Soto’s atrocities in the “New World,” as envisioned by Theodor de Bry, a Flemish engraver, 1565. Some of de Bry’s engravings were based on first-hand accounts of European explorers, but de Bry himself never visited the Americas.

Courtesy John Carter Brown Library at Brown University

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Route taken by Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto and his men. Photomechanical color print, 1898.

Courtesy Library of Congress

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An artist’s depiction of an Indian village in Arkansas set on fire at the approach of de Soto. Engraving, from The Life, Travels and Adventures of Ferdinand de Soto, Discoverer of the Mississippi, 1858.

Courtesy Library of Congress