The Calusa were a Native American people who lived on the coast and along the inner waterways of Florida’s southwest coast.
Early Spanish and French sources referred to the tribe, its chief town and its chief as Calos, Calus, Caalus, and Carlos. Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda, a Spaniard held captive by the Calusa in the 16th century, recorded that Calusa meant fierce people in their language. The Anglo-Americans used the term Calusa for the people by the early 19th century. It is based on the Creek and Mikasuki (languages of the present-day Seminole and Miccosukee nations) ethnonym for the people who had lived around the Caloosahatchee River (also from the Creek language).
Juan Rogel, a Jesuit missionary to the Calusa in the late 1560s, noted the chief’s name as Carlos, but wrote that the name of the “kingdom” was Escampaba, with an alternate spelling of Escampaha. Rogel also stated that the chief’s name was Caalus, and that the Spanish had changed it to Carlos. Marquardt quotes a statement from the 1570s that “the Bay of Carlos … in the Indian language is called Escampaba, for the cacique of this town, who afterward called himself Carlos in devotion to the Emperor” (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor). Escampaba may be related to a place named Stapaba, which was identified in the area on an early 16th-century map.