Program 2: Living in Paradise

Medicinal & Edible Plants of the Tocobaga and Calusa Indians

Presenters: Hermann Trappman and Elizabeth Neily

Building on what we know from the Windover Pond Archaeological Site, near Titusville, we learn that Native Americans were heavily involved in medicinal plants over 8,000 years ago. The American Indians recognized that there were plant communities, plants which supported and helped each other. The one that most people are familiar with is called the “three sisters,” corn, beans and squash. Corn takes nitrogen out of the soil, beans are nitrogen fixing, and squash flowers draw insect pests away from the beans and corn. Squash is unharmed by most insect pests. And so, the three sisters work together to make a healthy garden. In fact, the three sisters milpa system is much more complex than this. In Central America, as many as 80 different plants were grown in a community.

When American Indians saw the way we gardened they wondered why we pull up or kill the weeds. “Those weeds,” they pointed out, “kept the sun off the soil and held the soil during rains and floods.” Many of those weeds actually helped build nutrition in the soil. The problem is that the original Floridians were killed off before we learned any of their lessons. The prevailing attitude at the time was, they were just savages, and that meant they knew nothing.


Elizabeth and I have been on this path for a long time. We have spent most of our adult lives identifying the challenge of how people survived in this environment. In that time we have learned to set European heritage aside and although we are not as skilled as the American Indians were at understanding this environment, we have come to think of ourselves as Tocobaga. Our goal is to help folks who have recently moved here as well as longtime residents, to reach deeper into this Florida soil and its amazing story, to find a human path. Our choice is a human choice. Until we open our hearts we cannot give. Until we open our eyes, we cannot see.

This is a powerpoint program with some hands-on materials to share.

Time: 45 minutes plus 15 minutes Q&A Performance

Fee per performer: $150.00 Additional Charge for Travel, Accommodation, and Meals 60 miles 


with Hermann Trappman and Elizabeth Neily