We are often asked why there are two (or more) spellings of “Miakka/Myakka”. We have had given to us the very best evidence to date of the origins. There is a name given to the ancient indigenous Mayaca tribe and it is believed to have been given by the Spanish in the mid 1500s and this name is related to the naming of this area in Sarasota. Apparently, the name “Mayaca” also referred to the principal village and the chief of this tribe. This tribe of hunter/gatherers made their home along the St. John’s River in northern Florida.
Background: Between 3000 B.C. and 500 B.C., unique Florida Indian cultures developed throughout every region of the state. It is these pre-Columbian societies that spawned the 350,000 American Indians, the Apalachee, Calusa, Potano, Mayaca, Tequesta and Guacata who inhabited the northern coast of Florida when Juan Ponce de Leon landed on this Atlantic coast in 1513 and then sailed around the peninsula to Estero Bay near Fort Myers.
Little documentation on the history of the Mayacan tribe exits, but we have recently given a letter written in 1940 by Secretary of the Seminole Indian Association, W. Stanley Hanson to Mr. Claude E. Ragan, then the Project Superintendent of Miakka River State Park (yes, “Miakka” not “Myakka”) explaining the history and origin of the various spellings. We have seen other evidence, that of the survey maps that detail the spelling of the region spelled by the United States Geographic Board, “Miakka”. According to this letter, Lake Myakka was originally known as “Mayaco”. Also, the lake is referred to as “Myakka” in 1856.
Click on this thumbnail to view this historic document,
At the bottom of the letter a hand written question asks what the name “Miami” means, as “Mayaca” is believed to have the same meaning. The “Mayaimi” Tribe lived near Lake Okeechobee, named from the Hitchiti words oki (water) and chubi (big). The oldest known name for Lake Okeechobee was, “Mayaimi”, also meaning “big water”. This was reported by Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda in the 16th century.
What remains to be yet discovered, is how the name Miakka/Myakka was given to the communities, river, and lakes in Sarasota when evidence shows that the Mayacan tribe lived in northern Florida, along the St. John’s River basin. Thank you to Woodward Stanley Hanson, great grandson of W. Stanley, for this submission.