The Native American Tunica people moved near the mouth of the Yazoo River by 1694 and allowed French Jesuits to establish a mission in the village in 1699. From this location they continued to trade salt, pottery and horses to nations both east and west of the Mississippi. The Tunicas relied heavily on their strategic location and willingness to embrace French culture to nurture their alliance. So began a long relationship that led to the prevalence of French-speaking Tunica-Biloxi well into the 20th century.
Dr. Deborah Clifton, curator of the Louisiana Science Museum and an instructor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, will discuss American Indians and the French language during the “Unité et Diversité: A conference on Louisiana French” Friday, Sept. 23 and Saturday, Sept. 24. Clifton is one of several speakers who will address the development of French in Louisiana, regional French and the influences other cultures had on the language.
The conference will take place on Friday at the Events Center and will conclude with La Table Française on Saturday, Sept. 24 at Fort St. Jean State Historic Site. The conference sessions are free, but donations are welcome.
Other panelists are Donna M. Pierite and Elisabeth M. Pierite, language and lifeways instructors for the Tunica-Biloxi Language and Culture Revitalization Program, and John Barbry, director of development and programming for the Tunica-Biloxi LCRP.
For more information on the conference, contact Loletta Wynder, project coordinator for the Creole Heritage Center, at (318) 357-6685 or visit creole.nsula.edu.