Deep in the heart of the city of Miami, about two blocks from Brickell Street, sits a small wooden house with a garden and a natural spring.
The property is owned by Ishmael Bermudez, a 65-year old man with Native American heritage. Bermudez, who also goes by the name Golden Eagle, has watched Miami grow as tall buildings, major thoroughfares, and other new constructions have dwarfed his tiny home.
Bermudez has spent the last 50 years discovering Native American artifacts, fossils, and prehistoric objects in his garden, which has been labeled “the Well of Ancient Mysteries.”
Because of the artifacts he has found, Bermudez believes that his property was at one time sacred land for the Tequesta tribe. The Tequesta inhabited the southernmost tip of Florida for almost four thousand years. Not wanting contact with Europeans, the Tequesta had mostly migrated away by the time Florida was traded to the British by Spain.
Bermudez has received an offer from a Miami land developer of $1.8 million, due to the property being in a prime spot for construction. Surprisingly, Bermudez has refused this offer unless he has a guarantee that the sacred land will be protected. “
There’s not enough money that can buy what’s on this land because it’s simply priceless,” Mr. Bermudez told a local newspaper. “How can you put a price on the history of humanity? It has none.” Bermudez has suggested that the land become a historical monument to the Native Americans who once dwelt there.
“Maybe like a museum or an archaeological landmark for the city,” he said. “But in these difficult times, it’s hard to believe that someone would have a clean enough soul to do something like this because people only care about making money.”
Bermudez, a native of Colombia, has lived on the property since he was eight years old. Born to a Colombian mother and an American serviceman father, he believes his Native American ancestors were a part of the Pueblo and Navajo tribes. His heritage has been passed down from his father’s line.
About four years after his family settled in Miami, he was given a school assignment to find the local spring that provided water to the Tequestas.
It took seven years before he finally found the spring on his own property near a mango tree. This was the first of many excavations in his backyard. Bermudez has made it a point to share the natural spring water with any refugees in his area.
Bermudez has invited several archaeologists to examine the artifacts found in his backyard. The experts have confirmed that some of the objects had been left by the Tequesta. They have also confirmed that an ancient Tequesta site, The Miami Circle, discovered in 1998, sits only a few blocks from the Bermudez property.
Bermudez and his domestic partner, a local artist named Burke Keogh, have started a Facebook page called “Well of Ancient Mysteries“ in order to bring attention to their present situation and to encourage followers to preserve nature and Native lands.
“I’m committed to sharing the knowledge I have acquired through an excavation of more than 50 years, waiting for people to understand that we can’t keep destroying our natural resources. If there’s no water, there’s no humanity.”
Bermudez and Keogh both believe that the offers will continue to come in and as time goes by they expect the amounts offered will increase.
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But the colorful little house, painted by Ms. Keogh’s artwork, will stay the property of Ishmael Bermudez until he has a promise that his sacred land will be protected.