Native American chiefs share history, present-day issues at LSUS

Four Winds Cherokee Chief Two Feathers displays bags made of deer skin by his tribe Monday at LSUS.
CREDIT: Lukas Harville/LSUS Media Relations

The historical accounts shared by Four Winds Cherokee Chief Two Feathers and United Houma Nation Chief Lora Ann Chaisson shed light on the personal impact of the often oversimplified narrative surrounding the interaction between Native Americans and Europeans in North America.

Organized by the LSUS Office for Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement to commemorate Native American Heritage Month in November, the event provided a platform for Chiefs Two Feathers and Chaisson to share their perspectives.

Chief Two Feathers, leading the Four Winds Cherokee tribe in western and central Louisiana, traced his ancestors’ arrival in the late 1700s from the Carolinas. Settling in what was then No Man’s Land in western Louisiana, the area provided a temporary haven with more lenient laws. However, Chief Two Feathers noted that Native Americans faced legal, social, and cultural intolerance, leading to changes in last names and other identity concealment practices.

“For the Houma, forced off their traditional homeland around the Baton Rouge area, life in the bayous of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes became a necessity,” Chief Chaisson explained. Despite ties to the land, historical disadvantages persist, affecting their traditional practices like cypress basket weaving due to saltwater intrusion.

Chaisson highlighted the environmental challenges faced by Louisiana residents, including coastal erosion and powerful hurricanes, impacting their way of life. The unequal recovery from storms further exacerbates disparities, as demonstrated by the abandonment of an island in southern Terrebonne Parish.

Chaisson emphasized the need for collective efforts to secure a better future for the upcoming generations. “We’re fighting so that our babies don’t have to fight these fights,” she said, underlining the ongoing struggle for cultural preservation and environmental justice.