Coushatta Tribe Preserving Heritage

June 15, 2007

Reported by: Britney Glaser

Throughout the years, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana has seen parts of its deep heritage begin to slip away with new generations.

The earliest documentation of the Coushatta in Louisiana dates back to the early 1800s, but, up to this point original historical documents have been few and far between.  That is all going to change, though, with the new Heritage Center for the Coushatta Tribe.

Yesterday morning, ground was broken in Elton for this new center that will preserve the history of the Coushatta and revitalize the native language, Koasati.  Bertney Langley is a native Koasati speaker and has seen the language used less over the years, "We've always been told that if our language dies out in the tribe," says Bertney, "we should consider ourselves no longer Indian people."

With Native American children in the town of Elton attending public school where Koasati is not taught, the language has been neglected by many members in the tribe.  "It's very difficult to teach these kids," says Bertney, "when some of them go off to preschool or have babysitters that don't speak Koasati."

Bertney's wife, Linda Langley, is an anthropology professor at McNeese State University.  For years, she has been documenting the Koasati language and the Coushatta Tribe.  Linda says the Heritage Center is an exhilarating project that will change the knowledge among the public and the tribe.  "All of the exhibits will have Coushatta as the first language," says Linda, "there will be so much innovation.  These are the kinds of exhibits that people in this area have never seen."

The project will be complete in about one year and is being made possible through a $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

David Sickey with the Coushatta Tribal Council says the Heritage Center will be open to the public throughout the year and will offer a hands-on opportunity to learn the history of our native people.