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The Two Republics of Spanish Florida

The King of Spain governed Florida as two separate republics—the Spanish Republic and the Native Republic. The King and his advisers appointed a colonial Governor to oversee the Spanish Republic. Florida's colonial governors used the courts of law, the military and the church to enforce the King's laws and policies. The Spanish government did not often interfere in tribal affairs. An appointed official—Protector for the Indians of Spanish Florida—reported to the Governor, but could write directly to the King.

The Native Republic had many "governors," as many as there were village or tribal chiefs among the colony's Indian tribal groups. Native peoples under each chief's rule had the rights of all who obeyed the King of Spain. Each chief spoke on behalf of the village or tribe and many pre-European customs and "laws" continued to govern the daily lives of native peoples. The power of chiefs to govern, however, diminished as Spanish rule of law and Catholic doctrine were accepted among Florida's native populations.