provided to The Santiva Chronicle
Sanibel Sea School held Calusa Week July 19-23 at their Flagship campus on the east-end of the island. Campers celebrated the Calusa tribe by honing their waterfolk skills, building their own rafts and shelters, weaving palm fronds, and even making tools out of natural materials.
The Calusa people lived in Southwest Florida until the mid-18th century and used the ocean as a primary resource. Evidence suggests that the Calusa did not practice agriculture but instead lived off of the ocean and made their living sailing, fishing, and crafting tools out of mollusk shells.
Artifacts also suggest that the Calusa hollowed out cypress logs to make canoes – some even 15 feet long. To become immersed in how the Calusa used to traverse the waters around Sanibel, campers paddled canoes around San Carlos Bay and even had a few canoe races.
“Calusa week is our most popular week of summer camp,” said Director Nicole Finnicum. “Campers just love learning the history of the Calusa in Southwest Florida and really enjoy paying homage to the tribe by retracing their steps through the activities.”
Campers also spent time crafting using only materials from nature. They learned how to weave plates out of coconut palm fronds and built tools using sticks, rocks, and twine that they made using fibers from cabbage palms. Campers even built a raft made from palm fronds and bamboo and was held afloat by coconuts.
On Wednesday night, campers continued their island explorations into the evening for a nighttime snorkel. Campers snorkeled in the illuminated water under an almost full moon, finding shrimp, hermit crabs, and sea hares.
Sanibel Sea School rotates through different marine-inspired themes each year, but because Calusa Week is so special to campers and staff, this is the only theme that is repeated every year in July.
Part of the SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation) Family, Sanibel Sea School’s mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time.