Natchitoches’ Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site hosted the Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana’s second annual Pow-Wow Saturday, November 9. Several hundred visitors 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 was joined by several other Tribes from around Louisiana and surrounding states who performed traditional drumming and songs for the dancers. The opening of the Pow-Wow featured a presentation of flags and a tribute to veterans.
The Tribe’s farthest flung member, Mssr. Clement Lagouarde of Paris, France once again came to Natchitoches to attend the gathering. His great grandfather was from Natchitoches and enlisted in the U.S. Army during 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. He also designed the tribe’s seal and is a council chief.
The Pow-Wow also featured colonial era reenactors who demonstrated life and crafts of the late 1600’s and early 1700’s.
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, Jannet Melton, “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 1600 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.”
The Natchitoches Parish Journal is donating the event photography. The Tribe is welcome to download any photos they wish. The Pow-Wows are fun and educational events that are part and parcel of what makes living here so special. May there be many more in the upcoming years.