Point Au Chien Indian Tribe background information

On behalf of the Louisiana Coastal Tribes Coalition, including the Pointe Au Chien Indian Tribe and the bands of the Biloxi Chitimacha, we welcome you.

Most of southeast Louisiana’s remaining Native Americans reside in four centuries-old communities in the southern-most ends of bayous running to the coast in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes. They are a proud, self-sufficient people who take what nature gives, an amalgamation of the last vestiges of Louisiana’s “Petite Nations.” In these sleepy, modest fishing towns, French-Indian is most often heard, and generations of smiles and laughter almost always accompany a good pot of jambalaya or plate of fried soft shell crabs. Today, these unique communities, their language and Indian culture, their lifestyle and indeed their identity as a separate people are deeply threatened.

From slavery to dispossession of their traditional tribal lands, to centuries of discrimination, segregation and systemic lack of education, these folks have survived continual insults for well over three hundred years. But over the last 75 years, the Corps of Engineers has dammed the Great (Mississippi) River, robbing their lands of the river’s life sustaining sediment and causing the land to sink and subside at an astonishing rate. Additionally, oil and gas companies have carved a spider’s web of exploration canals throughout the marshes, allowing salt water to intrude and kill the marsh vegetation, eroding their last remaining ridges. As a result of these two man-made environmental crises, the marsh land surrounding their communities constitutes the fastest disappearing landmass on Earth! Miles of marsh are lost every year to subsidence and storm surge. These marshes hold their history, their cultural relics, their sacred places, and indeed, the very remains of their ancestors.

Our coastal marshes were, are and forever will be Louisiana’s best defense against hurricane storm surge, a horizontal levee. In fact, in the past five years alone, the communities have flooded five times. Politically marginalized and outside of any meaningful coastal restoration plan or existing or planned levee system, their despair grows. Just this year, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike ripped these historic bayou towns with ferocious winds and six foot storm surges. The hurricanes left a trail of peeled back roofs or crumpled houses, overlain with uprooted marsh and thick mud, unparalleled elsewhere in Louisiana. Generations of entire extended families lost everything, with no monetary means to recover. Immediate relief from the government was slow to non-existent. Long term recovery and development is not even mentioned. If we can’t tip the balance, the tribes will be dispersed, assimilated and probably become extinct as an ethnic community. The towns they live in will literally fall into the sea, to be viewed only in the museum galleries of curators who foretold this eventuality and sent photographers to document the communities after the storm.

We are trying to return some hope to them. The Pointe Au Chien and Biloxi Chitimacha tribes have long sought federal recognition of their ancestry, heritage and culture.  We hope to use federal recognition, and the legal trust relationship it entails, to buttress the legal and political case for providing these important and deserving peoples with meaningful coastal restoration and storm protection. We hope to inject the very existence of this unique Indian culture as a determinative factor when deciding which projects will be funded, which communities will be allowed to die and which survive. Exactly these decisions are being made right now.

With the substantial help of Dr. Laura Kelley, Professor of History, Tulane University and the cooperation and assistance of many individuals and organizations like the Historic New Orleans Collection, the Louisiana Division of Archeology, Dr. Robert Brightman of Reed University, Dr. Thomas Schurr of the National Geographic Human Genome Project, Dr. Peter Mires, the Louisiana State Archive, and others, we feel we are making significant progress toward achieving a well-supported history of these tribes and more the story of the Native Americans of Southeast Louisiana.

To the conscientious students of the Student Hurricane Network, we welcome your help in this fight! Without your help, we can’t get this done. We welcome your participation in literally uncovering and writing the untold history of Louisiana’s first peoples. We are forever grateful and in your debt.

Louisiana Coastal Tribes Coalition:

Chief Chuck Verdin
Chief Albert Naquin
Chief Randy Verdun
Chief Marlene Foret

Tribal Attorneys:

Joel Waltzer
Patty Ferguson

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