Floridian Nature

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Florida Tribes: Jaegas Indians
The Jaegas were also known as the  Jega, Xega, Jaece, Geigas,  and Jobe tribes. They were a tribe of Native Americans living along the coast of present-day Martin County and Palm Beach County, Florida at the time of initial European contact, and until sometime in the 18th Century. Little is known of the origins of the Jaegas, but they may have been a junior branch of the Ais tribe that occupied the coast to their north. Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda, who was held captive by tribes in Florida for 17 years during the 16th century, implied that the Ais and the Jaega spoke the same language. The Jaega were linked to the Ais by marriage between chiefs and their relatives. The Ais and Jaega languages have been tentatively assigned by some authors to the Muskogean language family, and by others to the Arawakan language family. The Jeagas foraged for coco plums, sea grapes and palm berries, They also drank a frothy, ceremonial tea made from the roasted leaves of the cassina plant. Known as the "black drink", it was high in caffeine and obviously made quite an impression on the Europeans. They gave it the lovely botanical name "Ilex Vomitoria."

Some information about the Jaegas of the town of Jobe ,near present-day Jupiter Inlet, Florida) comes to us from the Journal of Jonathan Dickinson, who was part of a shipwrecked party detained by the Jaega of Jobe for several days in 1696. By Dickinson's account, Jobe was subject to the Ais chief who resided in Jece, near present-day Vero Beach, Florida). In the later part of the 16th century Spanish soldiers who had been driven out of Ais territory built a fort called St. Lucie at the Jupiter Inlet, but were soon forced to abandon it after relations with the Jaega turned sour.

The largest cluster of Native American Indian mounds in Palm Beach County is located just west of Boynton Beach in an area of the Agricultural Reserve across from Faith Farm Ministries. Labeled by the state as site #8PB56, the twelve mounds are spread over an area of approximately ten acres and range in size from a few yards circular to a mammoth rectangular one measuring 200 X 100 feet. They are probably the remains of a sub-group of the Jeaga tribe. The Jeagas at their peak numbered about 2,000 and were spread across much of what is now Palm Beach County. Their neighbors were the Ais to the north and the Tequesta to the south. Hunters and gatherers, the Jeagas railed heavily on marine resources and very little on agriculture. There is a large-sized mound just south of the Boynton Inlet on the east side of AIA. Unfortunately, it is now covered by a condominium complex (hopefully the inland site will not endure a similar fate). Limited excavation at the Inlet mound revealed turtle shells, large marine vertebrate and pottery. Warnke theorizes that the same group may have been responsible for both sites. "They probably periodically trekked to the shore for food and carried it back to the main encampment."

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