Museums of Cassidy Park celebrating Native American culture Saturday

Published 9:05 am Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Museums of Cassidy Park Director Lorraine Bourne stopped by a recent Rotary Club of Bogalusa meeting to talk about this weekend’s Native American Cultural Day.

Bourne said the idea came about when she told Museums of Cassidy Park Board President Jo Ann Miller, who is 100 percent Native American, that when she has attended traditional pow wows, she felt like she was missing the backstory.

Saturday’s event is meant as a way to remedy this situation for those who may have limited knowledge of Native American customs and culture.

The Museums of Cassidy Park and the Intertribal Council of Louisiana/Institute for Indian Development, Inc. will host a Native American Cultural Day from 9 a.m. through 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 8. Representative from seven Louisiana tribes: the Coushatta, Chitimacha, Jena Band of Choctaws, Tunica-Biloxi, United Houma Nation, Clifton Choctaw and Choctaw Apache, will share their culture through traditional dance, dress and crafts.

Miller, a member of the Tunica-Biloxi tribe (her father and grandfather were chiefs) who is coordinating the event, said it will provide opportunities for visitors to learn and experience through one-on-one contact.

“The Native American Cultural Day represents a unique opportunity for visitors to interact with Louisiana Native Americans,” she said. “We have representatives from seven Louisiana tribes coming together to share their heritage and culture. Unlike a pow wow, which is larger and includes competitive dancing contests, our event will be more personal, allowing visitors to talk to tribal members about Louisiana’s Native American culture.”

People will be able to ask questions and to learn directly from those still steeped in the traditions. And they will be able to see the traditions demonstrated by true practitioners.

“Tribal members will be demonstrating traditional crafts and the stomp dance,” Miller said. “We will also have replicas of traditional dwellings for visitors to explore. And visitors will be able to purchase handmade craft items.”

Museums Director Lorraine Bourn said the event will be the first of its kind, and she said the MCP is fortunate to have Miller.

“Jo Ann has traveled well over 1,000 miles and devoted many hours meeting with each of the Tribal Councils,” she said. “I am humbled by her respectful approach to everyone, never promoting her own ideas, just making everyone else’s ideas meld into a beautiful plan.”

She encourages students of all ages, educators, parents and all those who want to learn about and to connect with the culture to attend.

“Everyone interested in the Native Americans is in for a fantastic treat!” Bourn said.

The City of Bogalusa is in the process of re-branding itself as a cultural center that educates its own population and attracts outsiders by offering an expanding range of opportunities to learn and to gain experience in a positive, family-friendly way.

The Museums of Cassidy Park Native American Cultural Day is expected to extend the foundation of that new persona.

Mayor Charles Mizell thanked the Museums for “continuing to build a better Bogalusa.”

“Congratulations to the hard working museum board and all the volunteers for creating this one-of-a-kind event in our beautiful park,” he said. “It not only gives an opportunity to showcase our city, but the historical value is also immeasurable. This is a great opportunity for the community to learn about the Native American heritage in this region. Don’t miss it.”

The Native American Cultural Day is free of admission charge — Miller noted that tribal leaders did not want an admission charge to prohibit anyone from attending — and the public is encouraged to help spread the word and to attend.