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The Pánfilo de Narváez Expedition of 1528,” written by local retired business executive and historian James MacDougald, was published this month with definitive evidence that the first documented inland exploration of what is now the United States began at Boca Ciega Bay in present-day St. Petersburg.

Only four of the Narváez 300-man inland expedition survived. Over an eight-year period they walked across North America to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. One of the survivors, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca wrote the first book ever published about inland North America in 1542, entitled the “Relacíon.” Another survivor, an African slave named Estevanico, was the first non-native to enter what are now the states of Arizona and New Mexico. Various historians and researchers have reached different conclusions as to where the initial landing actually occurred. MacDougald’s book provides conclusive evidence that the landing occurred in Boca Ciega Bay.

A new nonprofit organization, The History Council, has been co-founded by MacDougald and attorney Larry Beltz. Amy Harriett Miller is the organization’s executive director. “This new book is groundbreaking research that proves that St. Petersburg, Florida should be in all of our history books,” explains Miller. “It was the first inland exploration of America, occurring 275 years before the Lewis & Clark Expedition, and few people have ever even heard of it. That’s the focus of The History Council – communicating these extremely interesting and important events more widely to both locals and visitors, enhancing awareness of some of the biggest events in our area’s history. Initially, we are working with an esteemed roster of leaders in academia, government, business, and the community to create two new monuments commemorating the Narváez Expedition.”

The History Council is hosting a Symposium in St. Petersburg on October 27-28 that will feature many experts on Florida as it existed before and during the time of the first contact by Europeans with Native Americans. Keynoting the symposium is Sterling Professor Rolena Adorno of Yale University. Also presenting are Barbara A. Purdy, Ph.D., Albert C. Hine, Ph.D., Ping Wang, Ph.D., Martin A. Favata, Ph.D., J. Michael Francis, Ph.D., Jerald T. Milanich, Ph.D., and Robert J. Austin, Ph.D.

Details and registration information for the October Symposium are available at

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