Video: Hernando de Soto

What happens when a primitive society is overrun by a more advanced one? The travels of Hernando de Soto through Georgia and the Southeast are a good illustration of the havoc created especially when a quest for gold is mixed in. Hernando de Soto and his men, already rich from fighting with the Incas in South America, arrived in La Florida searching for gold. Jerald Milanich, an archaeologist at the University of Florida explains the conquistadors’ success. Under de Soto’s leadership, the Spaniards came to North America with armored horses and attack dogs and never looked back. They intimidated and killed the Indians they encountered, either in battle or through the spread of deadly diseases that nearly decimated the native population. Journals written by several of de Soto’s men remain an important legacy of the encounter. Recorded in them are the names of people and places and stories of the native culture that de Soto nearly destroyed.

Teacher tip: Locate a map that traces de Soto’s route though the Southeast. Do some additional research to discover and record events that occurred in locations along the journey. Find out what eventually happened to Hernando de Soto.