Louisiana Public Broadcasting presents “Native Waters: A Chitimacha Recollection”
There are different means of knowing and remembering, and they are not mutually exclusive.
Through a small tribe known as “the People of Many Waters,” a new high definition Louisiana Public Broadcasting documentary offers an alternative way of recalling Native American history — Chitimacha history.
“Native Waters: A Chitimacha Recollection” is the story of these Native Americans who are among the first people of Louisiana and heirs of an unbroken 8,000 year past in their native coastal region of the Atchafalaya Basin of Louisiana. Living off the bounty of one of the richest inland estuaries on the continent, this indigenous nation persists and rejuvenates its culture while losing its ancestral territory to forces other than conquest.
The program airs March 22 at 7 p.m. on Louisiana Public Broadcasting.
“Native Waters: A Chitimacha Recollection,” is a journey into sacred places of the basin with author and keeper of his family’s oral tradition Roger Stouff, a fisherman “descended from a long and distinguished lineage of fishermen within a nation of fishermen,” as he provides native stories, beliefs and perspectives about this important and often overlooked people.
While the tribe’s numbers have decreased to a little more than 1,000 members and their sacred fishing and hunting grounds have been depleted by man-made incursions such as the Atchafalaya River levees following the 1927 Mississippi River flood and the increased sediment and plant life that are slowly filling up their lakes, the tribe has had a cultural renaissance. A grant from Rosetta Stone has allowed the tribe to resurrect their almost forgotten language and teach it to young tribal members in school. The creation of a Cultural Center has allowed the tribe to document many of their historical artifacts including the tribe’s unique baskets.
“The Chitimacha people are fortunate today,” Cultural Director Kimberly Walden said. “We have maintained and preserved and brought back many aspects of our culture and that’s going to continue. We’re on the upswing.”
Stouff agrees that the tribe has been fortunate in many respects; he believes there are major challenges ahead for the “people of many waters.”
“What we’re having is an environmental nightmare that is affecting all of the basin, affecting all of Louisiana,” Stouff said. “For the Chitimacha, literally what we took our name from is vanishing. It is vanishing right under our feet, right under our boats.”
Directed and produced by award-winning LPB Senior Producer Tika Laudun, this documentary was written and narrated by Stouff and co-produced and written with C.E. Richard. LPB’s Rex Fortenberry was the photographer and editor for the program. Special assistance was provided by the Chitimacha Cultural Department and Walden.
“Join us for ‘Native Waters: A Chitimacha Recollection’ as we present our audiences with a vision of one of the most unique natural landscapes in North America and home to the Chitimacha from time immemorial,” Laudun said.