Perhaps the greatest benefit to be derived from making the Mound Key trip with an archaeologist like Theresa Schober, who also functions as a cultural resource consultant, is becoming sensitized to the dangers of modern encroachments to these sacrosanct links to bygone peoples and times.
Mound Key already bears the scars of forays made into the island between 1900 and the 1930s to cannibalize the mounds for their component shell for road improvements and similar purposes. And while the State of Florida owns the vast majority of Mound Key, one local family owns a chunk of the island that they've fenced with barbed wire and desecrated with docks, lean-to's and related agricultural structures without proper deference to the land's archaeological significance. (In fairness, the family is amenable to selling the land to the State of Florida, but not at the price the State is willing to pay.)
Tour-takers will not learn everything there is to know about the once-mighty Calusa from touring Mound Key with a thoughtful and thought-provoking guide like archaeologist Theresa Schober, but they will become much better equipped to envision, appreciate and better understand their society and what was lost when their civilization collapsed under the weight of their deleterious contacts with first the Spanish, and later the British, who armed Creek Indians and dispatched them to hunt, capture and enslave these native Americans to the point where they disappeared from the pages of history.
And for a neophyte local historian like this author, the trip begins to fill in the gaps and missing links in the history of Southwest Florida, which all too often considers the sad plight of the Seminole Indians to the exclusion of the far older and longer entrenched Calusa simply because the latter disappeared from the scene a hundred or so years before the Seminoles migrated into South Florida.
Schober plans four more guided tours of Mound Key, so there's still time to reserve your spot on an upcoming tour. Tour dates are:
- March 3,
- April 7,
- April 14, and
- May 5
Each tour departs from West Bay in Estero and includes a guided tour by Schober focused on the rich history of Mound Key. A light lunch is also provided. Each tour is limited to 25 people and costs $45/person. The proceeds realized are being donated to help underwrite a documentary that is being coordinated with the Viva Florida 500 celebration about the remarkable island capital of the Calusa Indians. For reservations, please call 239.851.9040 or email: MakingHistoryMemorable@gmail.com.
Key sponsors of the documentary include the College of Life Foundation, Banana Bay Tour Company, Friends of Koreshan State Historic Site, Estero Bay Buddies, Marco Island Historical Society, Estero Historical Society, and Bonita Springs Historical Society with grant funds from the West Coast Inland Navigation District. Documentary partners include Captiva Cruises, Collier Count Museums, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Park Service, Koreshan State Historic Site, Lee Trust for Historic Preservation, Mound Key Archaeological State Park, Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, West Bay, and University of Pennsylvania Museum.
The Friends of Koreshan State Historic Site is a volunteer-based charitable organization founded in 1987 that is dedicated to the preservation, restoration, and interpretation of the Koreshan Unity Settlement, a National Register Historic District that consists of the Koreshan State Historic Site in Estero and Mound Key Archaeological State Park in Estero Bay.