The Apalachees were a group of Native Americans farmers who lived in northwest Florida from around A.D. 1000. There were between 50,000 and 60,000 Apalachees in the area before the arrival of Europeans. Many Apalachees converted to Catholicism after the Spanish became prominent in their territories during the 17th century. After the Apalachees were devastated by war in the early 18th century, they migrated west to Alabama and Louisiana.
The Apalachees showed their respect for the sun by saluting it at the doors of their wigwams every sunrise and every sunset. They constructed their sacred huts in such a way as to permit the sun's rays to enter and illuminate their worship space. Although they had great respect for the sun, the Apalachees did not offer it sacrifices of any living thing. They did, however, offer sacrifices of non-living things.
The Apalachees believed in a solar folklore that was similar to several other Native American groups, such as the Natchez of Mississippi and native peoples in present-day Mexico and Peru. According to their solar folklore, their most prominent ancestors, such as great Apalachee chiefs and warriors, dwell inside the sun after their departure from earthly life.
The Apalachees played a special ball game during the spring and summer as a religious ceremonial exercise. They would start by splitting up into two large groups of around 100 people each. They played with a small, hard clay ball covered with buckskin. The game was played to obtain favor from the gods of thunder and rain for a better crop season.
Despite years of resistance against the Spanish settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries, the traditional territories of the Apalachees came under Spanish control. The Apalachees were visited by two major Spanish expeditions headed by Panfilo de Narvaez and then Hernando de Soto. Apalachee land became an important missionary territory for Spanish Christians in the 17th century. Anhaica became one of the area's first missions when it was founded in 1633. Later renamed San Luis de Talimali, the mission served as the Spaniard's religious and administrative capital in the western part of the continent. By 1655, eight of the towns in the traditional Apalachee territories had a Franciscan mission.
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