Filed Under Story

4. The Ibita (River)

“The River of May” NPS display

“some chieftains approached our captain and gave him to understand that they were subjects of a certain powerful chief named Saturiwa, whose territory we were in, whose residence was near to us, and who could put into the field so many thousand men.” –Jacques LeMoyne, 1564

Walk down the path to the right and onto the dock overlooking the St. Johns River. The display in front of you tells the story of the French entering Mocama from a French perspective. Here, we tell that same story from a Mocama point-of-view, by using Mocama archaeology, Mocama actions, and French documents to re-interpret this event.

On May 1, 1562, Mocama border patrol assembled on the banks of an ibita (river) now known as the St. Johns. They knew that strangers were sailing towards their shore. When the French finally landed later that day, Parucusi Saturiwa - the high chief of the Mocamas - met them with a large military company. Saturiwa spoke with the French and blocked them from entering his peoples’ community. The Mocamas did not know these foreigners, who seemed primarily interested in the gold and silver that they wore.

The Mocamas only allowed the French to stay in their territory for two days and kept the foreigners confined to the shoreline. On May 2, the French placed a stone column on a hill on the outskirts of Saturiwa territory. Only after they sailed away did the Mocamas come to inspect the column. The Mocamas understood this column as a gift. A gift that communicated French recognition of Mocama power over these lands.

On June 22, 1564, at the beginning of achemòta (summer), the French returned a second time to Mocama. By the time their sails appeared on the horizon, Mocama border patrol was already alerted. Once again Mocama soldiers assembled under several captains to investigate. They learned that the French were almost entirely men and mostly soldiers. This time, Saturiwa would allow the French to enter his peoples’ territory and even to establish a small settlement under his authority. But the Mocamas would be the ones to select the place - in an unsettled area that had poor food resources. In addition, Saturiwa would ensure that the foreigners agreed to a treaty, one where the French acknowledged that they were in Mocama territory and followed Mocama laws.

To understand this encounter, we first need to turn to the Mocama world in which Fort Caroline was located.


The Ibita (River) Audio Narration This is an audio narration for this stop on the Indigenous Fort Caroline Tour. Source: Department of History, Center for Instruction and Research Technology (CIRT), University of North Florida Creator: Amarilys Sánchez Date: 2024


"Mocama Patrol Greet French Soldiers" A painting depicting the encounter between Mocama officials and patrol forces with French soldiers along the Ibita in 1564. Source: The National Park Service, Harpers Ferry Center Commissioned Art Collection (HFCCAC) Creator: Ricahrd Schlecht
River of May National Park Service Wayside Display An image of the River of May wayside display located at the deck overlooking the St. Johns River at the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. Source: The National Park Service Creator: The National Park Service at the Fort Caroline National Memorial
Indigenous Fort Caroline Tour Map A map displaying the physical locations associated with each tour spot. You are now at Spot 4 in front of the River of May NPS display, overlooking the St. Johns River. Our path takes you from the Main Parking Lot, past the Timucuan Preserve Visitor Center, overlooking the river, along the Fort Caroline Memorial Trail, to the actual replica of Fort Caroline. Source: Center for Instructional and Research Technology (CIRT), University of North Florida, and the National Park Service Creator: Michael Boyles and the National Park Service at the Fort Caroline National Memorial Date: 2023



Indigenous Florida, “4. The Ibita (River),” Indigenous Florida, accessed June 20, 2024,