Native Tribes of the Coast

Numerous Native American tribes call coastal Louisiana home. Our productive wetlands provide food, shelter, and numerous resources for tribes to successfully live in such dynamic environments. The connection these cultures have to our wetlands are threatened by coastal land loss and climate change. As seas rise and our land washes away into the Gulf of Mexico, some of these groups will have to decide to relocate. The Isle de Jean-Charles band of the Chitimacha-Biloxi-Choctaw tribe is among the first groups currently in the process of resettling away from their tribal lands. With the land loss we are experiencing along our coast, they won’t be the last.

There are four federally recognized Native American tribes in Louisiana: the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, and the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana. Louisiana is also known for the Atakapa, Caddo, Houma, Natchez, and Tunica tribes. [1] Many parts of Louisiana are named for the tribes that lived there or named after words in native languages, including the city of Houma, Bayou Teche, Caddo Parish, and the Atchafalaya Basin.

Food, shelter, and navigation are some of the greatest benefits to these groups living in the wetlands. Wetland soils are great for agriculture, which is crucial to grain and corn production. Hunting and fishing were and still integral to the livelihoods in many native tribes across the coast, accomplished by nets, traps, and other tools made from bone, stone, or gar scales. [2] Bayous and lakes allowed people to travel steadily and safely before the introduction of roads, which encouraged extensive trade throughout the various webs of waterways sprawling across our landscape. With such widespread fertile land, there were plenty of natural resources to sustain communities coastwide.

Just as people rely on wetlands for survival, wetlands are beginning to rely on us for survival. CWPPRA and other restoration efforts value the importance of preserving historic sites located across our coast. More protection to historic sites, current civilizations, wildlife habitat, industrial property, and our communities are all reasons to improve our coastal wetlands. Healthier and stronger wetlands mean increased protection during large-scale disturbances like hurricanes. CWPPRA has been working since 1990 to do just that because we know how valuable our wetlands are for so many groups of people, plants, and animals alike.

[1] http://www.native-languages.org/louisiana.htm

[2] http://www.chitimacha.gov/history-culture/tribal-history

Featured Image by Josh Haner with the New York Times, found at https://www.wired.com/story/how-to-save-a-town-from-rising-waters/

 

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