An Ais Indian
AT THE AGE OF 12, JIM WILSON, A WELL RECOGNIZED HISTORIAN, TREASURE HUNTER, SOCIAL MEDIA PROFESSIONAL AND BOARD MEMBER OF THE VERO BEACH HISTORICAL SOCIETY found an arrow head and an axe head two feet deep in his yard.
This led Jim on a hunt to discover the history of The Treasure Coast’s Ais Indians.
The Treasure Coast extending up to Brevard County was densely populated with Ais Indians, up until Juan Ponce de León (Santervás de Campos, Valladolid, Spain) arrived in St. Augustine, Florida in 1513.
He was one of the first Europeans to arrive to the current U.S. because he led the first European expedition to Florida, which he named.
Juan Ponce de León – http://www.heritage-history.com
While not much is known about the Ais Indians, over time it is believed their demise was attributed to Spanish colonization and the rats and diseases they brought with them.
(Incidentally, Jim Wilson’s research actually takes to task that Juan Ponce de León actually arrived in St. Augustine, but that is a matter for another day.)
What is known about the Ais Indians was found in Jonathan Dickinson’s Journal who, along with his party, were shipwrecked in 1696 and spent several weeks with the Ais Indians.
Mr. Dickinson’s notes about the Indians were transcribed on bark and animal hides.
He believed that the chief of the town of Jece, in close proximity to Vero Beach, was paramount to all of the coastal towns from the Jaega town of Jobe (at Jupiter Inlet) in the south to Brevard County in the north.
As a historian and social media professional, Jim Wilson has recently created a Facebook group called “History of the Ais Indians of the Indian River Lagoon Uncovered,” which was created to provide a meeting place to have discussions about ways each community within what was once known as ” The Land of the Ais ” ( This includes Martin , Saint Lucie , Indian River and Brevard Counties ) can do or have done to honor and memorialize the Ais people.
Please refer to a related article on Jim Wilson and his Facebook groups.
Pending further study, Jim’s Facebook group is a closed group, by invitation only, with only 186 members. An example of the caliber of the 186 members of the group is John de Bry, President/Founder, archeologist, archival researcher at the Center for Historical Archeology.
The Center for Historical Archaeology is a non-profit scientific organization based in Melbourne, Florida. The Center provides archival research in French, English, and Spanish archives, underwater wreck sites assessment and dating, and cultural material analysis.
One thing we do know about the Ais Indians is they created “shell midden mounds,” which are dung hills or refuse heaps. Here they would deposit shells, human and fish bones. Jim also believes the chiefs of Ais Indian tribes were buried at the top of the midden mounds.
Ais Midden Mound
(Fort Pierce Midden Mound Painting by Clara Miller)
Eventually, in the early 1900’s the midden mounds were dug up and the shells and bones were repurposed into a shell/gravel like substance and used to make roads, such as Old Dixie Highway.
Jim is also on the hunt for ways to memorialize the Ais Indians. He says there are no roads or parks named after them in Indian River County. As Jim puts it, “Indian River County was originally part of what was referred to by the Spanish as The Land of the Ais and the Indian River Lagoon was known as the River of the Ais.”
One way he is looking to memorialize them is to scout out Ais Indian art and organize an art show. Here a few of the paintings he has identified by the renowned artist Theodore Morris that inspired Jim to honor the Ais in other ways, as well as photographs.
The other way Jim is looking to memorialize them is by using a male model to recreate an Ais Indian, with all the accoutrements native to the Indians, including markings, feathers, clothing, markings and “fish bladder” earrings died either red or blue. He is conducting extensive research to make sure all the accoutrements are genuine for the period.
Then he would take the Ais model out on location and take photographs and make a video of him sleuthing, fishing and using arrows. The video will be used to commemorate the Indians at various events from Stuart to Vero Beach.
“We need to honor these people and bring back a life that disappeared.”