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Miami’s little-known Indigenous history

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After meeting Bermudez in 2018, local artist Jaqueline Gomez set out to photograph the Native American sites he discovered. “At first, I didn’t believe him,” she admitted. Then, she spent time researching the history of the Tequesta people and realised Bermudez was serious. “They don’t teach you about this in [school],” she added. In fact, Bermudez wasn’t surprised when Miami Circle was discovered just six blocks north of his home. 

In 2020, Gomez published The Tequesta of Biscayne Bay, a magazine documenting how Miami’s Indigenous sites are still part of the city’s landscape. The photographs include Bermudez’s home, Miami Circle and Met Square (a prehistoric village found in 2014) among others. “They have found so many other mounds bordering the Miami River,” Gomez said. “I still don’t understand how the city decided which ones would get protected and which wouldn’t.” Yet, having grown up here, Gomez is aware of Miami’s tendency to bury its past, leaving Native American tribes in a constant battle for their sovereignty and land rights. “It’s sort of a losing battle because these developers always tend to win,” Gomez added. 

As the last remnants of Miami’s Indigenous past continue to get paved over, the risk is that so too will their histories. “If people don’t know about, or don’t care about the Indigenous sites in Miami, nobody is going to save them,” Bermudez said. But as more activists continue to join Osceola’s calls to preserve the city’s Indigenous past, perhaps visitors will get a better sense of the history hidden just under their feet.

Rediscovering America is a BBC Travel series that tells the inspiring stories of forgotten, overlooked or misunderstood aspects of the US, flipping the script on familiar history, cultures and communities.

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