Chiefly Behavior: Evidence from Sixteenth Century Spanish Accounts



Following the argument that sixteenth-century Spanish explorers were treated by Native Americans of the Southeast as paramount chiefs, we attempt to describe appropriate protocol toward paramount chiefs according to native values. We argue that paramount chiefs in the Southeast may have travelled through their domain on a periodic basis. After an elaborate greeting ritual, there were other formal expressions of hospitality. Visiting paramounts could expect to be supplied with food, housing, tribute, burden bearers, and transportation via canoe. De Soto was supplied with guides as he passed through native polities, but this behavior may not have been necessary for native paramounts. De Soto was also supplied with women, but it is not clear if this was standard behavior of a chief toward a paramount, or if the Spaniards had demanded women.