Tulane Celebrates National Native American Heritage Month

The month of November was National Native American Heritage Month. A celebratory festival was held on campus on Friday, November 18. This event, sponsored by the Lavin-Bernick Center and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, was organized by Katie Cannella of the LBC, Dr. Judith Maxwell of the Anthropology department, and Mackenzie Walters, a Master’s student in the Anthropology Department. The Tunica-Biloxi tribe from Marksville, Louisiana and the Pointe-au-Chien tribe from Bayou Point-au-Chien, Louisiana each brought information and artifacts representing their respective heritages and cultures. The Tunica-Biloxi also read a collection of children’s stories in the Tunica language. The stories included “How the Tunica and Biloxi Became Friends,” “The Flood Myth,” and “The Sun Woman.” These are from a fully illustrated book that will be published next year, the second book of its kind in the Tunica language. The readings were followed by a demonstration of traditional songs and dances. The Tunica brought the audience out onto the dance floor for Pan-Tribals. Among the songs and dances were the Children’s Song, the Etima Lapu song, the Snake Dance, and the Double-Headed Dance.

Dave Watt, a PhD student in the Anthropology department, displayed artifacts from the Middle American Research Institute collections, handed out informational flyers on Louisiana archaeology, and discussed major archaeological sites in the state.

Shane Lief, a PhD candidate in Anthropology, and Dr. John DePriest from the Center for Global Education played guitar and banjo, mixing traditional and modern melodies. Sodexo served Navajo tacos and honeyed frybread.

On Saturday, November 19, the Office of Multicultural Affairs arranged a fieldtrip to Gonzales, Louisiana for the Louisiana Indian Heritage Association’s fiftieth annual Pow-wow. This is the longest running powwow in the state of Louisiana.

The National Native American Heritage Month and its observances at Tulane have ended, but Tulane remains actively involved with Native American communities in Louisiana. Dr. Laura D. Kelley works with the Pointe-Au-Chien and teaches a TIDES course, running projects which could bolster the tribe’s bid for federal recognition. Dr. Judith M. Maxwell and a cadre of Linguistics and Anthropology students work with the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana to revitalize the Tunica language. A two-week intensive summer course culminates in an immersion language camp for the tribal youth.