Indigenous Peoples Day to raise awareness of Louisiana tribes

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LAFAYETTE – Monday is National Indigenous Peoples Day. It falls on the same day as Columbus Day, as a way to honor people already living on the continent when Christopher Columbus landed in 1492. Friday, President Joe Biden signed the very first proclamation declaring October 11 like Indigenous Peoples Day in the United States. He is the first US president to officially recognize this day.

The influence of Native American culture is visible everywhere. In many parts of the country, rivers, towns and other landmarks still bear names originally given by native tribes.

In Louisiana, there are four native tribes recognized by the federal government, but several more are rooted in the state.

“According to our stories and legends, we only claim the last 5,000 years, but in reality we came here during the Indian Paleon years, 12 to 15,000 years ago,” said John “Sitting-Bear” Mayeux.

Sitting Bear is known to the government as John Mayeux, but prefers to be referred to by his tribal name. He worked as a bear clan chief in the Avogel tribe of Louisiana for over 30 years.

“‘Avo’ means flint, ‘gel’ means people. We were called the flint people. The parish of Avoyelles was named after our tribe. I don’t know why, but the French didn’t like it. ‘g’, so they changed to ‘y’. Avogel became Avoyel, “he explained.

He says his tribe, made up of 263 roles, is peaceful and known for trading.

“In Louisiana there is no stone, so to make arrowheads and lancers and knives we would go up north to get flint and then when we go to trade with people,” Sitting added. Bear. “They were like, ‘The flint people are coming.'”

Despite his retirement, Sitting Bear remains active in his tribe; however, he says, he has not always been able to celebrate his legacy.

“In fact, when I was young we were told not to discuss it because it would cause a bullet in the back. My grandfather was orphaned at the age of 9 because three drunk white men decided to ‘go and hunt the Indians, which means they would kill first. They ran into Indians. It was just his parents.

Indigenous Peoples Day is a positive movement in history, but Sitting Bear says he takes it with a grain of salt. After the arrival of Christopher Columbus, 90% of the indigenous population died from violence and disease.

“We helped the first settlers who came here, we tried to help them survive, because they didn’t know how to survive. The biggest problem was mosquitoes, because of the diseases they carry. We told them the best thing to use. it’s bear fat, but they didn’t like our idea, ”said Sitting Bear.

If you want to learn more about the tribe and other tribes in southern Louisiana, you can find Sitting Bear at Vermilionville Tuesday through Friday.

Governor John Bel Edwards signed a proclamation in 2019.

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