Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribes Celebrate the Creation of a Culture-Friendly French Immersion Indian School – L’Observateur

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Pointe-au-Chien, LA – On June 24, 2022, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards participated in an HB 261 signing ceremony to establish École Pointe-au-Chien, a French immersion school culturally representative in the community. The event was hosted by the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe at their Tribal Building, one of the few structures to survive the direct hit of Hurricane Ida in August 2021. Speakers included Governor Edwards, the author of the bill, President Pro Tempore Tanner Magee, and Chuckie Verdin, president of the Pointe-au-Chien tribe. The event began with an opening prayer by Father Roch Naquin and an opening song by Chief Albert Naquin and Démé Naquin of the Jean Charles Choctaw Nation. The tribe recognized President Pro Tempore Magee for his leadership and support of the bill and the community, and Senator Mike Fesi for his assistance in the effort. The bill was passed by both houses without any opposition. The tribe also acknowledged and thanked Governor Edwards for his support, noting that he was the first governor to meet with our tribal community. The event was hosted by Patty Ferguson-Bohnee of the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe and Will McGrew of Télé-Louisiane; the event ended with attendees joining in the tribe’s song about its history. The signing of the bill was followed by a shrimp porridge prepared by second President Donald Dardar to celebrate the passage of the bill.

The Indian tribe of Pointe-au-Chien has made it a priority to maintain the Indian French language. Members of the tribe were denied educational opportunities until the late 1930s, when Baptist missionaries established a school in lower Pointe-au-Chien. However, members of the tribe could not attend the local high school until the schools were integrated in the late 1960s. Once in school, Pointe-au-Chien students were punished for talking their language and suffered from discrimination. The tribe led efforts in 2018 and 2020 to establish a French immersion school in the parish of Terrebonne, but the local school board did not act on valid petitions requesting French immersion. When the local school board closed the elementary school serving Bayou Pointe-au-Chien last year – the majority of students were from Native American and French-speaking families – the tribe focused its efforts on creating a school that would reflect culturally the region, notably by incorporating the local dialects of Indian French and Cajun French into the program.

The tribe is grateful to its many partners and friends who have worked together to support the effort. President Verdin said the tribe is “grateful for the support and honored that the state is investing in the future of our people by providing assistance to maintain our unique language, culture and heritage.”

The Pointe-au-Chien Indian tribe is located in the parishes of Terrebonne and Lafourche. Tribal members are guardians of a region continuously inhabited by their ancestors. Despite increased environmental challenges, the tribe is committed to efforts to increase resilience for future generations. For more information, visit www.pactribe.com.

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