The Early Native Americans
The areas earliest known residents were Indians who where called Ais. The Ais lived along the coast between Cape Canaveral in the north, Fort Pierce, in the south and westward to the St. Johns River. Just south of our area lived another early tribe called the Jeaga. Although many traces of these Indians remain along the Indian River shores, very little is known about the tribe. Shipwrecked sailors were known to have been killed by, as well as taken in by, the Ais. The Jonathan Dickinson party, that shipwrecked in 1696, encountered the Ais as they traveled up the coast to St. Augustine. The Ais artifacts include pottery, stone and shell tools. This area also has Indian shell middens and burial grounds. A real Ais Indian mound is located about one mile south of the County Courthouse along Indian River Drive.
A major chief of the Ais (circa 1563) was named Oathaqua. Governor Mendez de Canco reported in 1597 that the Ais chief had more Indians under him than any other tribe he had contact with. Because there was such a bounty of food available in the local environment, the Ais numbers grew as well as their culture. The Ais were hunter gatherers. Their diet was rich in fish, turtle and shellfish. They ate cocoplums, sabal palm berries and other gathered fruits.
The Ais were friendly with the Spanish and sent warriors in 1605 to assist them in their campaign against the French. After 1703 the tribe was absorbed into the Costas tribe. Their numbers had diminished to 137 individuals by 1711. Diseases brought by the Europeans eradicated the remaining Ais/Costas by the mid-1740's.
Related Link about: The Ancient Ones.