Maida Owens, of Louisiana Folk Life, has worked with hundreds of tradition bearers and organizations to help support Louisiana’s traditional cultures.
Q: What is your job title and affiliation?
A: Louisiana Division of the Art Folklife Program director
Q: How did you get started in this field and how long have you been doing this type of work?
A: I have an MA in cultural anthropology from Louisiana State University. I’ve been with the agency since 1986 and have managed the Folklife Program since 1988. Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of tradition bearers and organizations to help support our traditional cultures in many different projects. but in 2019, with the Louisiana Folklore Society, we began the Bayou Culture Collaborative. Since then, I’ve focused on sustaining our coastal cultures.
Q: Describe the part of your job/role that you enjoy the most.
A: I enjoy working with all the tradition bearers who have a deep appreciation and love for their culture and want to pass on their traditions. They are one of our state’s richest cultural treasures.
Q: Describe the part of your job/role that you believe is the most impactful.
A: The Bayou Culture Collaborative with the Louisiana Folklore Society can make a difference in what Louisiana’s traditional cultures become in years to come. There has been significant movement of people already around or away from the coast and more is predicted. Many Louisianans move nearby, which is good for maintaining our traditional cultures, but many move farther away to different eco-systems and away from their cultural networks. They are at risk of loosing important parts of their culture. My work now is to encourage everyone to approach this issue with intention and ask ourselves, What would our great-grandchildren wish we had done to pass on our cultures?
Q: What do you think is the best/easiest way people can help restore or preserve wetlands?
A: I don’t have any specific answers, and I doubt there is an easiest way to preserve the wetlands, but I do think we need to include in the conversation tradition bearers who really know the land. We also need to consider the impact on our cultures.
Q: In your opinion why is coastal restoration in Louisiana important? For folks out of state, why is Louisiana’s coastal restoration work important for the nation?
A: I work with the cultural side of the wetlands and those who have deep traditional knowledge about the ecology, known as traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) — the practical experience of knowing the land and water from living off the land. Saving this knowledge is as important as saving the wetlands.
Q: What is your favorite recreational activity to do in the wetlands? OR Which wetland inhabitant (bird, fish, plant, etc) do you think best represents you?
A: To be perfectly honest, I just love being in the wetlands whether it is just relaxing, crabbing or fishing. Some of my fondest memories are going out with my family and then cooking what we caught.