The United Houma Nation’s “Investing in Tribal Artist” Project

Houma, LA – The United Houma Nation is pleased to announce our participation in the National Performance Network’s first cohort of Southern Artists for Social Change. This project focuses on artists and culture bearers of color engaging in social change in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Part of the Surdna Foundation’s Radical Imagination for Racial Justice initiative, this award provides  grants to projects that identify community challenges or needs, imagine a different future, and practice, test, and/or design for approaches toward that future that center racial justice. “NPN’s Southern Artists for Social Change envisions a world in which people of color living, working, and organizing for community change in the South have the power, resources, and opportunities to thrive.”

 

Janie Luster, tribal artists, holding some palmetto leaves.
Janie Luster, tribal artists, holding some palmetto leaves.
Louise Billiot holding one her creations with a traditional gourd.
Louise Billiot holding one her creations with a traditional gourd.

Our project, Investing in Tribal Artists, aims to provide an experience that not only educates but also engages and grounds tribal citizens of the United Houma Nation into our unique culture in a way that ultimately encourages social action. This project will allow the tribe to delve further into giving the culture bearers and artists a stronger platform. The first component of this project is to incorporate workshops that feature traditional Native American practices and sharing knowledge of the arts and culture from the Houma Indians. The demonstrations will feature; basket weaving, construction of an on-site palmetto hut, traditional storytelling, medicinal herb work, makings of moss dolls and garfish scale jewelry. These workshops will be held throughout the year. The UHN will advertise dates and times via Facebook, so be sure to keep a look out for the registration forms for the workshops.

Grayhawk Perkins, a Houma traditional storyteller, standing in front of mounds that were common to build by Houma people.
Grayhawk Perkins, a Houma traditional storyteller, standing in front of mounds that were common to build by Houma people.

The second component of “Investing in Tribal Artists” is to create an apprenticeship program where the culture bearers will have the opportunity to pass down traditional skills. As a result, at least three participants per year will learn and master a traditional skill, allowing the tribal community to continue on these Houma traditions. The three culture bearers taking part in this component of the project are, Grayhawk Perkins (story telling), Janie Luster (basketry), and Dena Foret (moss dolls). This element of the project focuses more on preservation as the talents our tribal members possess contribute significantly to the way of life for the Houma people. If you are interested in taking part in the apprenticeship program, please go to www.unitedhoumanation.org, and fill out the survey titled, “Investing in Tribal Artists”. This aspect of the project is set to begin in September 2021, so be on the lookout for the applications for the apprenticeship.

One of the main outcomes of this project is creating opportunities for tribal artisans as well as budding artists to explore traditional and modern art for self/tribal expression. Investing in Tribal Artists will provide an opportunity for the tribe to continue traditions and in effect it will help preserve and celebrate our culture through art as the first peoples of Louisiana.