By Kevin Shannahan
Natchitoches’ Fort St. Jean Baptiste came alive with the sounds of drumming, singing and dancing as the Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana held its first Spring Festival at the fort. The Natchitoches Tribe was joined by around 15 members of the Mississipppi Band of Choctaw Indians who demonstrated traditional social dances and then invited the crowd to join them. Members of the Houma Indian Tribe also joined the festival and demonstrated crafts and games. A crowd of approximately 150 people came to enjoy the fun and educational event.
The Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana members are documented descendents of Natchitoches’ original Native American population who were here when Bienville came up the river. Over the years, they intermarried with the French and Spanish settlers. According to the Vice Chief of the Tribe, Belinda Brooks, “They hid in plain sight” after the Indian Removal Act of 1835. The Tribe, long thought to be extinct, actually never was and is coming forth to reclaim its heritage. On April 10th, a bill will be introduced in the Louisiana Legislature to recognize the Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana. They are also in the process of obtaining Federal recognition.
In addition to the event’s guests from Houma and Mississipppi, tribe members came from as far away as Alabama, Illinois, Oklahoma and Paris, France, making the event a family reunion as well.
Mssr. Clement Lagouarde of Paris, France is a proud member of the Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana. His great grandfather was from Natchitoches and enlisted in the U.S. Army in WWI. While serving in France, he met Clement’s great grandmother, Mme Fernande Jasinsky. Lagouarde discovered his Natchitoches tribal roots while researching his family history.
The Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana’s inaugural Spring Festival is a great way to bring family together and celebrate our shared heritage. May there be many more to come!