Abstract: Spanish Entradas and Indian Roads: Colonial Encounters of the First Kind in the Interior of the US Southeast


Several sixteenth-century accounts relate the travel of Hernando de Soto and his army in the southeast in the spring of 1540 and the forays of Juan Pardo and his soldiers from the fort they established in 1567. After being given the official title of Governor of La Florida, de Soto began his reconnaissance in what is today the state of Florida, passing through South Carolina and eventually turning farther inland in North Carolina.  His goal was to explore the full extent of his realm and ideally learn that his protectorate had great wealth in natural resources and people. He was the right-hand man for Francisco Pizarro in the conquest of Peru and had already amassed a great deal of wealth, and the Florida venture was to give him the social recognition that came with the official title and the potential for even more riches. Juan Pardo was sent on two expeditions to the interior in the 1560s by the then Governor of La Florida, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. The two key directives were for Pardo to establish a road from Santa Elena, on the coast of present-day South Carolina, to the silver mines of Zacatecas, Mexico and subdue the Indians. In the interior of today’s U.S. southeast, Native American peoples were undergoing dramatic changes in political and economic organization, with the growth of new chiefdoms in some areas, while entire river valleys became depopulated in other areas.

Recent archaeological work has recovered abundant remains of sixteenth-century settlements, some possibly ancestors to the Overhill Cherokee. A Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis of favorable roads shows how people were connected, and historical accounts by travelers help pin down the likely spots where these colonial encounters took place. The historical and archaeological evidence give a vivid account of what life was like during these early colonial encounters and how they changed the course of American history. The archaeological work is a collaborative project of research and public outreach in partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Clayton, Lawrence, Edward C. Moore, and Vernon James Knight Jr. (eds.), The De Soto Chronicles: The Expedition of Hernando de Soto to North America in 1539-1543. 2 vols. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, 1995

Hudson, Charles, Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun: Hernando de Soto and the South's Ancient Chiefdoms. University of Georgia Press, Athens, 1988  

Hudson, Charles, The Juan Pardo Expeditions: Explorations of the Carolinas and Tennessee, 1566-1568. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington,D.C., 1990

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