November is Native American Heritage month and what better time to learn about Florida’s own Native American history than now. G.C. Daniels, an author residing in DeLand, Florida, has published the children’s book, Uleyli- The Princess & Pirate. It was recently rated “highly recommended” by Children’s Bookwatch, a publication of the Midwest Book Review. The book is based on the true story of Princess Uleyli, Florida’s very own Pocahontas, who resided in modern-day Tampa at the time of European contact. In 1528 she rescued a teenage Spanish captive named Juan Ortiz from being roasted alive by her father, Chief Ucita.
Chief Ucita was seeking revenge for atrocities committed against his village by the leader of Ortiz’s expedition, the sadistic conquistador Panfilo de Narvaez. One of Narvaez’s men had taken liberties with a young village woman which led Ucita’s mother to confront the conquistador. Not used to being confronted, Narvaez responded by feeding Ucita’s mother to the expedition’s war dogs and then proceeded to use his sword to slice off Ucita’s nose when he protested.
The book begins months after the preceding events when Ortiz, who had been sent back to Cuba for resupplies, returned and began searching for the expedition. Tricked into swimming ashore by Ucita’s warriors who claimed to have a letter from Narvaez telling of the location of the expedition, Ortiz was captured and paraded through the village to the barbacoa where the natives roasted their meat. (Our modern word, barbecue, comes from this Native American word.)
Uleyli had her own set of problems. She was betrothed to a neighboring rival chief named Mocoso. The arrival of this young captive gave her an idea. If she could save Ortiz from being roasted alive he would be obligated to help her escape the village and her marital obligations.
So begins a series of misadventures that lead both Juan Ortiz and Princess Uleyli further and further from their goal. As the book’s description states, Uleyli “will need to use the power of her creativity to help save her new friend, her village, and herself.”
These events happened nearly 100 years before John Smith wrote about his encounters with Pocahontas at Jamestown. Perhaps Pocahontas should best be called Virginia’s Uleyli?
The book is available in two different versions: a 34-page, full-color junior graphic novel and a 94-page, black-and-white illustrated chapter book for more in-depth reading. The chapter book is available in local Volusia county libraries and in hardback, ebook, and audiobook editions at all online book retailers. The junior graphic novel is also available at all online book retailers.