While most of the country slept last Friday night, Florida was on edge and the Tampa Bay area was getting reports that the largest Atlantic hurricane in recent history was heading well… right for us. Reports fluctuated, as they often do, but it seemed that the eye of Hurricane Irma as a Category 4 or even 5 was a major possibility right here in Sarasota.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn even sending out a tweet: “We know we are ground zero for this storm. We have avoided it for 90 years but our time has come to be ready.”
Hurricane Irma made even the most level-headed Floridians panicky, and with reason. The storm’s strength at times was unparalleled, and we’re basically surrounded by warm water in low-lying areas. Irma’s wrath was certainly catastrophic in many places, and had the potential to do serious damage to our Gulf Coast. Somehow though, the Tampa Bay area experienced mild-to-moderate damage and discomfort but escaped relatively unscathed, again. As it somehow usually does.
Personally, I just chalked it up to the fact that storms are unpredictable and I was going to count my blessings over tenfold.
One of the first things I saw post-Irma was a Facebook post from a fellow Bradentonian exclaiming something along the lines of “I’d like to thank the Native Americans who placed protection here”.
I didn’t think too much of it and scrolled along with my day.
Until over the next several days, I continued to see multiple people talking about an apparent Native American protection placed on this land many, many years ago. As well as, a storm satellite picture circulating of an apparent protective heart around our county.
Sarasota has not been a bull’s-eye for a major hurricane since reliable records began in 1871. Tampa has avoided a direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921. Sure, we’ve definitely experienced our fair share of feeder bands, close calls, flooding, and power outages every hurricane season but time and time again we seem to dodge a bullet. I’ve always wondered why.
I grew up just a short run from DeSoto National Memorial in Bradenton, I vaguely recall a particularly long semester studying Florida’s past via the fairly discomforting book “A Land Remembered” in my 8th grade English class, and I remember countless history lessons about conquistadors and native Americans in our area.
Being born and raised here and seemingly well-versed in Manatee County history, but never having heard of this “Native American protection from storms”, I decided to do some research.
And well, I got nothing.
There isn’t record of the Native Americans placing any sort of protection against storms on this land and it seems that this theory appears to be just that, a theory. A story that has been passed down from generation to generation of Bradenton residents with not much clarity of origin or legitimacy. Historians seem to be a bit apprehensive of this idea, and scientists even more so. Years ago, county archaeologist Dan Hughes was asked about this myth and jumped in: “Let me guess. If it has anything to do with Indians and hurricanes, it’s not true.”
I’m not going to totally dispel it because, I don’t know and I don’t want to jinx anything.
Is it possible? Sure, anything is.
Whether you’re a firm believer in this Native American protection theory or you’re not so sure, I think it’s safe to say – we’re all thanking someone or something to have dodged another hurricane bullet.
bottom photo courtesy of Emily Henderson / top photo-Pixabay