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The Story of a Florida Pocahontas

The Florida Review


One of the great needs of Desoto was an interpreter. So he sent out two scouting parties to catch some Indians. One of the parties came upon a dozen Indians in an open field. These Indians were really coming to meet the white men, who not knowing this, gave them chase. One of the cavaliers was about to thrust at an Indian with his lance, when he was astonished to hear him cry out in rather poor Spanish "For the love of God and the Virgin Mary do not slay me, I am a Christian, I am Jaun Ortiz." Ortiz was painted and tattooed like the Indians and indistinguishable from them. Ortiz had been among the Indians for 12 years, and could only talk Spanish by mixing it up with Indian. I leave the Fidalgo of Elvas to relate an incident following the capture of Ortiz.

"By command of Ucita, Juan Ortiz was bound hand and foot to four stakes, and laid upon scaffolding, beneath which a fire was kindled, that he might be burned; but a daughter of the chief entreated that he might be spared. Though one Christian, she said, might do no good, certainly he could do no harm, and it would be an honor to have one for captive; to which the father acceded, directing the injuries to be healed. When Ortiz got well, he was put to watching a temple, the wolves, in the night time, might not carry off the dead there, which charge he took in hand, having commended himself to God. One night they snatched away from him the body of a little child, son of a principal man; and, going after them, he threw a dart at the wolf that was escaping, which, feeling itself wounded, let go its hold and went off to die; and he returned, without knowing what he had done in the dark. In the morning, finding the body of the little boy gone, he became very sober, and Ucita, when he heard what had happened, determined he should be killed; but having sent on the trail which Ortiz pointed out as that the wolves had made, the body of the child was found, and a little further on, the dead wolf; at which circumstance the chief became well pleased with the Christian and satisfied with the guard he kept, ever after taking much notice of him.

"Three years having gone since he had fallen into the hands of the chief, there came another, named Mococo, living two days distant from the port, and burnt the town, when Ucita fled to one he had in another seaport, whereby Ortiz lost his occupation and with it the favor of his master. The Indians are worshippers of the devil and it is their custom to make sacrifices of the blood of the bodies of their people, or of those of any other they can come by; and they artirm, too, that when he would have them make an offering, he speaks, telling them that he is athirst, and hat they must sacrifice to him. The girl who had delivered Ortiz from the fire, told him how her father had the mind to sacrifice him the next day, and that he must flee to Mococo, who she knew would receive him with regard, as she had heard that he had asked for him, and said she would like to see him: and as he knew not the way, she went half a league out of the town with him at dark, to put him on the road, returning early so as not to be missed.

Uleleh was the name of this Florida heroine who was four years older than Pocahontas of Virginia, or sixteen, and is said to have been exceedingly fair and graceful. No romance grew out of this adventure, her deed seems to have been due solely to her love of humanity. I see no reason why Uleleh should not be as celebrated as Pocahontas.

Ortiz spent nine years with Mococo, who promised if he remained faithful he would return him to the Christians, and it was in fulfillment of this promise that he was being escorted by a number of Indians, to the whites, when captured.

Excerpt from The Florida Review, Vol. V, No. 4. April, 1911, pp. 296–298.


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