By Judy Burgeron
“I knew it was a very special place, because I loved being there with him. It was sort of like a little bit of a spiritual renewal for me to be back there, but to be there with someone who had such a greater depth of knowledge of these ancestral areas than I had as a child,” Laudun said. “This was a way of going home and looking at it through the eyes of someone who had this knowledge of 8,000 years or more.”
The area and its people have changed much over these 8,000 years. Known as “the people of Many Waters,” the Chitimachas’ sacred hunting and fishing areas are now dwindling, thanks to the Atchafalaya River levees and the increased sediment and plant life that are swallowing up lakes including Fausse Pointe and Grand Avoille. The tribe now has about 1,000 members.
“This is the story of the thin places, the fragility of a land, the fragility of a culture, and how thin that is and how we live in such a liminal world because of all the influences around us, that we don’t always take the time to sit back and open ourselves up to these more spiritual, more intense experiences that are around us,” Laudun said. “We just don’t listen to it anymore. Sometimes, not intentionally, but I think we lose, as he (Stouff) says, our belief in these places, and they go away.”
On the plus side, the documentary explains that the school on the reservation has received a grant from Rosetta Stone to allow the tribe to revive its almost forgotten language and teach it to their young students. A Cultural Center has also been established, so the tribe can document many of its historical artifacts including unique, handmade basketry.
Below: "Author Roger Stouff works at his laptop in a scene from the Louisiana Public Broadcasting documentary Native Waters: A Chitimacha Recollection." (Tika Laudun)