AIS INDIAN ENCAMPMENT
Replication of the Ais Indian Encampment will provide a historical and educational insight to the settlement of the Ais Indians in this region of the Indian River and will exhibit the style of structures that transcends from the Ais Indians to the early pioneer settlers.
|An Ais Indian Chief's Long House
A Bohios - an Ais Indian family house.
The Encampment will consist of the Chief's Long House which will be approx.. 40ft x 25ft, constructed of log pole frame and thatched with palmetto fronds. The Chief's House may be used as an outdoor classroom and site may include a mock archaeological excavation site. The Family House (bohios) will be a round house of small flexible tree trunks stuck in ground and bent into the center, tied together to make a dome shaped roof. Sides will be covered with palmetto woven mats that can be removed for ventilation. The site may be a surface of land constructed of alternating layers of shell and earth to replicate a shell midden. This practice was done to raise encampments above the ever-changing rising water levels of the nearby river.
Exhibits of daily life may include firepits and food preparation of traditional dishes, "sweetgrass" basketmaking, weaving palm and palmetto mats, colorful Seminole patchwork and Seminole dolls made of cloth-wrapped palmetto fiber husk stuffed with cotton. Demonstrations and exhibits will include traditional methods of making dug-out canoes, tools and weapons. For special events and celebrations, traditional dance ceremonies will be performed along with playing of musical instruments as well as exhibits. Storytelling will also be an important part of the educational programs. It was a very important way to keep the legacy of the tribe alive and was performed by highly respected elders of the tribe and was told around campfires. They had the responsibility to retell the story as close to the original version that was handed down to them as possible.
PROPOSAL TO REPLICATE THE AIS INDIAN ENCAMPMENT
“Welaka” meaning “The Chain of Lakes”
The North Brevard Heritage Foundation proposes to collaborate with the Indian River Anthropological Society (IRAS), the Florida Public Archaeological Network (FPAN), and the Seminole Indian Tribes of Florida to replicate the Ais Encampment at the Brevard Heritage Center located at Field Manor, Merritt Island. It will provide a historical and educational exhibit depicting the settlement of the Ais Indians and in this region of the Indian River and tell the historic stories of the Windover Dig and Ross Hammock sites.
It is proposed that approx. 1 ½ acres of land be allocated on the southeast side of the “river” to provide adequate space to replicate the Ais Indian Encampment. The surface would be constructed of alternating layers of shell and earth to replicate a shell midden. This practice was done by the Indians to raise their encampments above the ever-changing raising water level.
The Ais Indian Encampment will be comprised of three replicated structures: The Chief’s Longhouse and two typical family houses (bohios).
The Chief’s Longhouse: Constructed of a log pole frame and thatched with palmetto fronds on both the roof and sides, rectangular in shape approx. 40ft. x 25ft. Entrance will be on one side with the Chief’s seat opposite the door and a pair of benches extending out into the from either side of the door, which accommodated other head men.
Family Houses (bohios): Each bohio will be built as a round house of small flexible tree trunks stuck in the ground in a circular pattern and bent into the center where they will be tied together to make a dome-shaped roof that will be thatched with palmetto fronds. Woven mats will cover the sides which could be removed for ventilation. Inside platforms that would have been used for siting and sleeping will be constructed of tree branches and covered with woven palm mats. Pillows made of plaited balls stuffed with moss will be replicated. Household utensils such as clay pots, gourds, conch shells and handmade tools made of shell and horn or bone will be replicated and displayed.
The Encampment will also include fire pits, dugout canoes and exhibits of daily life activities. A special feature would be a mock archaeological excavation area located near the Chief’s Longhouse, where school children will experience hand-on archaeology exploration and learn how archaeologists discover and uncover artifacts.
The NBHF proposes to work closely with the Seminole Indian Tribes of Florida, FPAN and the IRAS in the planning process to ensure replication authenticity of the Ais Indian Encampment. The IRAS is comprised of avocational archaeologists and archaeology students from various locations. Funding resources will be through State and local grants, fundraising and the Seminole Indian Tribes of Florida.
Special events will provide opportunities for the Seminole Indian Tribes of Florida to bring historical and educational exhibits to school children, college students, tourists and the general public. Exhibits and demonstrations will include basket making, matt weaving, making dugout canoes, traditional dances, ceremonies, musical instruments, fireside cooking and storytelling.
The replicated Chief’s Longhouse will be used as an outdoor classroom and the excavation site for hands-on archaeological experience. Archaeological Month is held annually in March and is celebrated statewide and will provide the opportunity to present interesting educational Programs about the many archaeological sites located in Brevard County, the Windover Dig and Ross Hammock sites.
The Ais Indian Encampment will provide a historical and educational insight to the beginning of settlement on the Indian River and exhibits the style of structures that transcends from the Ais Indians to the Seminole Indians to the early pioneer settlers.