By Kevin Shannahan
Natchitoches’ Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site hosted the Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana’s inaugural Pow-Wow Saturday, November 3rd. About 150 people attended the event, enjoying Native American foods, watching demonstrations of Native American Dancing and enjoying the tribe’s warm hospitality. The dancers wore authentic ceremonial clothing and explained the meaning and importance of the dances and details of their clothing. The dances presented represent native dance culture common to North American tribes.
The Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana was joined at the Pow-Wow by members of the Lipan Apache of Texas, Biloxi Chitmachia and Choctaw, Four Wind Cherokee and United Houma tribes.
The tribe has lost much of its culture over the past few centuries, a time it was not allowed to exist openly. The Pow-Wow is one step of the tribe’s quest to reclaim its legacy and culture. The Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana members are documented descendants 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. Currently, the Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana has over 600 registered members.
This paragraph from the program from the tribe’s state recognition aptly sums up the tribe’s quest:
“Today, the Natchitoches Indians, in honor of our ancestors, have come out of hiding and have reestablished our tribe openly. A Constitution and Bylaws are in place and a tribal council has been appointed. Our people have joined together to walk in the paths of our ancestors with honor and dignity.”