This conception of the Calusa king’s house on Mound Key is considered to be accurate. Although many Americans view native societies as sometimes crude and simple, the Calusa (like many native groups) were skilled architects and builders. They also developed a complex political system that influenced nearly all of Florida.
This portrait of Mary “Grandma” Johnson was taken on Mound Key on an unknown date. Grandma Johnson was the matriarch of Mound Key, letting other families live on the island. She taught families how to fish and how to build houses that would survive Florida’s severe climate.
This drawing represents Calusa influence over peninsular Florida during the tribe’s heyday. Calusa kings controlled all of Southwest Florida and sent warriors by canoe to tax other native societies as far away as Cape Canaveral, Miami and the Keys.