Native Waters: A Chitimacha Recollection, winner of a 2012 Telly Award, 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.
Through Native Waters: A Chitimacha Recollection, we 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 approximately 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 research and 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 Chitimacha Tribal Member Roger 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 Chitimacha Cultural Director Kimberly 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.
Funding for the program has been made possible by the Foundation for Excellence in Louisiana Public Broadcasting and Native American Public Telecommunications through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.