Tribes Gather at Mission San Luis for the Winter Solstice Festival

Dec 17, 2018

Descendants of Tallahassee's very first residents were among the Native peoples at this weekend's Winter Solstice event at Mission San Luis.

Seminole Tribe Member Pedro Zapeda demonstrates the traditional art of canoe carving for Mission visitors.
Credit Tom Flanigan

One of those descendants is present day Apalachee Tribe elder T.J. Bennett. He recalled how the tribe, driven from their Tallahassee home by invading British troops in 1704, eventually settled along the Red River in Louisiana.

"In 1764, we'd only been there a year and they constructed a church," he said, recalling the historic account of the tribe's exodus. "What do you think they named it? San Luis de Apalachee!" the very same name given to the Tallahassee Mission.

Nearby, Pedro Zapeda, a member of the Seminole tribe, was demonstrating the art of hand carved canoe making.

"The stern of the canoe is the more traditional shape, but the bow we actually took from the Spanish and European ships we saw, so we adapted that design to our canoes."

And the Tallahassee Astromical Society's Ken Copczynski was there to explain why ancient cultures marked the Winter Solstice as the days got shorter and colder and the sun sank in the sky.

"So they used to have big festivals to make the sun stop and turn around," he explained. "And guess what? It worked!"

We'll see if it works again for this year's Winter Solstice on Friday, Dec. 21.