The land of Louisiana has nourished Native American people since
4000 b.c. Not often thought of as ""Indian country,"" this southern
state has some of the oldest and best-preserved Indian burial sites
in the world, as well as distinct native cultures that continue to
flourish in the twenty-first century. Nations Within combines
amazing photographs with the voices and perspectives of Native
Americans to unveil the past and glimpse the future of the four
federally recognized sovereign Indian tribes of Louisiana- the
Chitimacha, Coushatta, Tunica-Biloxi, and Jena Band of Choctaw-
showing how these particular groups have sustained their heritage
and managed to thrive despite poverty, discrimination, and near
extinction. The oldest, the Chitimacha, have resided along the
Atchafalaya Basin for more than six thousand years and achieved
federal recognition in 1919. This community has kept its identity
through French and Spanish colonial governments, as Acadians flowed
into the region, and even as mainstream white American culture
seeped into its indigenous way of life and displaced its native
tongue. The Tunica-Biloxi tribe, which began efforts to gain
recognition in the 1930s and finally achieved that goal in 1981,
can trace its roots back to the sixteenth century. Located near
Marksville, this nation once considered renting its land for fifty
dollars a month as a garbage dump but now owns a
multimillion-dollar business that benefits the tribal members and
has recovered a fascinating collection of artifacts attesting to
its long history. The Coushatta began their journey from Georgia to
Louisiana in the late eighteenth century, eventually settling along
the southeastern reaches of the Red River. Attaining sovereign
status in 1972, the tribe has maintained its basic social tie, the
family unit or clan, and continues to practice traditions handed
down for centuries, such as the ritual shaving of infants' hair,
flute music, basket weaving, and Indian fry bread. The youngest of
the nations is the Jena Band of Choctaw, which chose the Trout
Creek area in central Louisiana as its home instead of continuing
the trek with other Choctaw forced west along the Trail of Tears.
Securing federal recognition only in 1995, the Jena Band focuses
its efforts on paving its economic future, raising the educational
level of the tribe, and improving health care options for members.
This wonderfully conceived book follows some of Louisiana's many
Indians through everyday life as they preserve their culture and
prepare for the future within an increasingly complex world.
Photographs and text together tell the uniqueness of each tribe and
the shining strength of its people.
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