Indigenous Spaces-French Expectations: Exploring Exchanges

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - 9:00am
The New Orleans Center for the Gulf South would like to welcome you to Indigenous Spaces, French Expectations: Exploring Exchanges Between Native and non-Native Peoples in Louisiana. This symposium re-examines the colonial narrative of Louisiana history and cultural heritage from Native and non-Native perspectives. While much attention has been paid to the 300-year anniversary of the founding of New Orleans, the objective of this meeting is to expand that focus and consider the lives of Indigenous communities before the arrival of Europeans and Africans, their subsequent interaction and, finally, to shift the focus to the present day and the First Nations who continue to inhabit this space we call Louisiana. All too frequently, the colonial narrative portrays North America before the arrival of Europeans as a wild open space, sparsely inhabited by nomadic peoples. Evidence contradicts this portrayal and, instead, shows that the Lower Mississippi River Valley was populated by more than 35 Tribes living in permanent settlements at the time of contact. The region, thus, was not defined by empty places but rather by Indigenous spaces—landscape central to Native identity. The French encountered these Indigenous spaces and constructed the exchanges in a Euro-centric context. French imagination of the First People reframed Native peoples’ existence to fit quixotic notions of colonial practices which sought to impose European-style domination over the landscape. However, reality found the French frequently having to rely upon Native people for food, protection and guides while the Tribes often resisted efforts to occupy their space in a world of shifting alliances. This symposium seeks to uncover those past encounters and decolonize the narrative of Louisiana history and stimulate a more informed conversation about Louisiana’s cultural heritage and its Indigenous people today. Looking forward, many of Louisiana’s indigenous people live on the frontline of coastal erosion and their input into not only stopping this destruction, but also contributing to the rebuilding of this vulnerable coastline, is critical to saving the land for all us who call Louisiana home. This event is sponsored by the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South. For more information, please contact Regina Cairns at or 504-314-2854.

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