The culture and traditions of the many tribal communities of Louisiana are embraced by their members and descendants. From the Coushatta, Houma, Jena Band of Choctaw, Chitimacha, and Tunica-Biloxi to the other state-recognized communities, these tribes have a rich history that is deeply embedded in their way of life.

Through ceremonies such as powwows, traditional music, storytelling, and through art forms such as beadwork and basket making, they have found ways to keep their culture alive while embracing modernity. This unique blend of tradition has helped shape the state’s identity and provides an invaluable link to its past.

Spring is here and our tribal communities are ready to celebrate their unique customs and traditions through a variety of events. Some of these gatherings present an opportunity for people from different parts of the state to experience our culture firsthand, while other gatherings are for tribal members only.

As we embark on festival season in Louisiana and New Orleans, we may want to explore the cultural traditions our tribal communities have to offer.

Tasso Time – April 15

Passionate Houma individuals, like Colleen Billiot, Brittany Verdin Jimenez, Ida Aronson, and Tribal elders Corine Paulk, Janie Luster, and Pat Arnould began a journey in 2019 to bring back the lost Houma tradition of Tasso Time.

In the 1800s all Houma Indians made tasso, leaving their homes in the bayous for the coast to catch fish for tasso-making (a smoked- or sun-dried fish), which supplemented their diets during the months when fresh fish was hard to come by. Tasso time was also a time for courting, since many Houmas would gather from across the bayous to sing, dance, feast, and tell stories.

In 2023, Tasso Time will be back at El Museo de los Isleños in St. Bernard Parish to bring together members of Houma and other southeastern tribes. This is an important opportunity for our people to reconnect with their culture and traditions. Traditional crafts and games will be demonstrated, and traditional foods will be served.

Speakers of Houma French and the Houma Language Project reclaiming Uma Anũpa will also be present. This event is not open to the public, but indigenous attendees are welcome to bring non-Native relatives.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival – April 28 – May 7

Jazz Fest has always celebrated the Louisiana tribes, allowing local artisans to showcase their basket-making, woodcarving, and other crafts in the Native American Village. This year’s lineup will include powwow dances, giving festival-goers an opportunity to learn the origins of traditional dances, while experiencing traditional drumming and singing. Make sure you add a trip to the Native American Village as you visit the Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Powwow Celebrations

Powwows are a vibrant and colorful celebration of Native American culture that have been around for centuries. The modern powwow is a gathering of different tribes and cultures, otherwise known as inter-tribal, where people come together to celebrate their unique heritage and traditions through drumming, dancing, crafts, and food.

These events also provide an opportunity to learn about the different cultural values, beliefs, and customs of the tribes present. Louisiana tribes have a long-standing presence on the powwow circuit, with the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana holding one of the country’s largest annual powwows. Although not inclusive, below is a list of the powwow celebrations being held across Louisiana this spring:

Choctaw Apache Tribe of Ebarb 30th Annual Powwow
Friday, April 28–Saturday, April 29, 2023, Noble, LA

Tunica-Biloxi 25th Anniversary Powwow
Saturday, May 20–Sunday, May 21, 2023, Marksville, LA

26th Annual Coushatta Powwow
Friday, June 9–Saturday, June 10, 2023, Kinder, LA

Friendship Powwow
Saturday, July 22, 2023, Bridge City, LA

The tribal cultures of Louisiana add incredible richness to the state’s cultural landscape and the tribal communities of Louisiana are proud to host the National Congress of American Indians’ 80th Annual Convention and Marketplace in November.

Established in 1944, NCAI is the oldest, largest, represented voice of American Indian and Alaskan Native issues. More than 172 tribal communities will be in New Orleans to embark on a new era of Nation-to-Nation advocacy. Louisiana’s tribal communities have unique and vibrant cultures and traditions, which they will showcase through their planning and involvement with NCAI.

These tribes embrace their history and culture with pride and are preserve their traditions for future generations while also serving as a reminder of the beauty of indigenous diversity in Louisiana.

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Brandi Liberty is an enrolled member of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas & Nebraska and a descendant of the United Houma Nation in Southern Louisiana. She is the owner of The Luak Group and its subsidiary...