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Atakapas-Ishak Indians' Newsletter, Winter Edition, January 2005
Atakapa for 'What's new?'! (lit. 'Tell me something1')
SOME SIGNS OF YOUR ATAKAPA IDENTITY
* Your family has early roots in S.W. LA/S.E. TX.
* Family was Catholic very early, even if not now.
* Family's early records, mementos, pictures, etc., show any of these terms: Atakapa Akokisac, indio, india, l'inde, sauvage, libre or free, du couleur, libre du couleur, free person of color, colored. All these terms, including the last five, were used early in the Atakapas' homeland by Spaniards then by French from 1700's to well into 1800's for identifying only Indians. The first use of the last four terms have been for a category of various peoples, all nonBlacks: Arabs, jews, Mid & Far Easterners, Central & South Americans, Spanish Colonial Islanders, Atakapas and other Indians. The Spaniards had considered that category of peoples as of a 'tinted' complexion contrasted with the Spaniards.
The French in their turn expressed the same mindset by their term for that same category of peoples: peuple du couleur, colored. Later the French limited that term to ...the Indians. By that the term became in fact a racially identifying term for Indians. Meanwhile the terms negre and esclave (slave) long identified only descendants of Africans, racially identifying terms for them. By mid 1800's scheming statesmen and cooperative Church authorities were using the same term 'colored' for tagging two totally distinct races (Indian and African).
A callous clouding of Atakapas' and other Indians' racial identity was the sure result, perhaps even the deliberate, racist intent! That clouding yet remains today. Today the holy Church seems too indifferent to bother righting the racist wrong it helped do to the Atakapas, faithful Catholics for three centuries!!
The term 'free' early on identified only Indians, by Spanish Queen Isabella's decree, honored also by the French. 'Free' too in fact long had been a racially identifying term for Atakapas."
Atakapas-Ishak Indians' Newsletter|
AMAZING ISHAK FINDS IN S.E. TX!
The early, long-time presence of us Ishak in S.E. TX and S.W. LA has been seriously overlooked in both States! Findings by the Texas Archaeology Study Assoc. (TASA)prove it. Historical Ishak in S.E. TX had the name Akokisacs. In S.W. LA Atakapas. TASA's finds in S.E. TX are amaxing! TASA puts Ishak presence there at about 12,000 years! The number of sites being identified leads to an estimate of 20,000-30,000 early Ishak dwellers there! About 200 of their ancient shell mounds are identified. Uncounted more have been leveled for road building material. A human body has been found, its age estimated at about 400-500 years. It is now at N.TX. State University's anthropology lab (Denton) for study. That body may be important as the earliest reference marker of our DNA, for any member who may want to confirm his. ("A group of enthusiasts in SE TS has formed to locate, map, study, and preserve old Atakapas-Ishak habitation sites in that area, along the Neches and Sabine Rivers, all around Sabine Lake, and throughout the Port Arthur, Beaumont, Orange triangle. Members already have found artifacts remarkably well executed. Bruce Lockett is the group's director. His address: P.O. Box 905, Vidor, TX 77662; phone or fax 409-769-3069.")
MESSAGE ENCOURAGING TO TRIBE
An encouraging message for us descendants of the Atakapas-Ishak was delivered September 30, 2004, during Archaeology Week at Fort Polk (Leesville, LA). Dr. Ray Miles, Ph.D., of McNeese State Univ., Lake Charles, LA, spoke on his subject: "Recovering Atakapa History: Using Tools of Ethnohistory", Dr. Miles sees a change for the tribe in S.W. LA/S.E. TX. Just in the past decade interest has grown to search for and to publish there long forgotten facts about Ishak (the Atakapas' true name). The area's old view of them as backward is fast changing. Changing too is its view about their long clouded racial identity! Racist laws there in 1800's-1900's forcibly herded together the Indians and Blacks. The two distinct races then long were callously co-identified (recorded) as the same race, e.g. in Catholic records! But Indian identity yet shows clear among families in and from S.W. LA/S.E.TX! DNA confirms that! (See ABC's Nightline of Nov/2003 where a S.W. LA self-called 'Black's' DNA proved him top be an (Atakapa) Indian!!!
Thanks again to a dear friend’s generosity our tribe
now has an Internet website. Set up about midyear
2003, its address is as follows:
www.beau.org/~velmer/atakapa Do a Google search,
type the search words Atákapa-Ishák, then click. Be
patient. Atákapan information shares the site with
other, non-Atákapan information. Be aware that
much of the information about our people is old
misinformation. To keep apart the correct from
incorrect, fortunately, two works are useful: A
Dictionary of the Atákapa Language (The Smithsonian’s
1931 book of its 1885 research of our people’s
language, history, culture) and The Indians Who Gave
Us Zydeco (H.D. Singleton’s 1995 research into our
people’s language, history, culture, and our past and
present social condition.) New postings on the
The Atákapas/Coushatta Trace, a stretch of
U.S.Hiway 190 in S.W. Louisiana named in honor of
the two tribes. The Atákapas-Ishák Historical
Marker placed at the junction of U.S. Hiway 190 and
LA Hiway 111 at Merryville,LA commemorates the
tribe’s prehistorical and historical system of foot trails
across S.W.LA/S.E.TX Sections of the old Atákapan
trails became the route of modern era highways. The
Atákapan Colletion (artifacts, photos, literature) at
Mrs. Velmer Smith’s WWII Museum, Hiway 190
East in DeRidder, LA. Admission is free. Open by
prior appointment. Call Mrs. Velmer Smith at 337-
New Author an Atákapa
Ms. Rachel Mouton of Carencro, LA, near
Lafayette, authored a praiseworthy, inspiring new
book, Life As An Oxymoron. She calmly reviews
many contradictions (to what is expected)
embedded all along her life’s way at school, at
work, in public places, even at church, and
elsewhere. Though many of the contradictions
defied sense and justice, she tried to stay focused
on values learned deep within her beloved family,
a racially mixed family that includes Atákapa
ancestry. In passages her writing borders on the
spiritual! For her 183 pp. book, $14.75 check or
M.O. includes postage and handling. Send to:
Rachel Mouton, P.O. Box 91021, Lafayette,
LA 70509 «
BUILD YOUR ATÁKAPA VOCABULARY: nīla = grandmother; nīl = grandchild; shaknīl = grandchildren; ntsét
(pronounced untsét) = brother; tanúk = one; tsīk (pronounced chike = two; lāt = three; himatól = four; nīt = five; lāt tsīk = six;
pash = seven; himatól tsīk = eight; wosh ishól ha = nine (literal meaning, ‘fists less a finger’); wosh pe = ten (lit. meaning,
‘fists entire’. The — over a vowel = long vowel, as in English.
MORE NEWS..IN BITS…AND
*Near mid-November Wayne Joseph, with SW
Louisiana roots, was stunned on national TV to learn
by DNA testing that he is a Native American! All his
life he had considered himself an African American.
That is an error made by and about many in and from
S.W.LA/S.E.TX, homeland of Atákapas-Ishák
Indians. The error comes directly from more than
two centuries of that area’s majority people carelessly
calling (and recording!) minorities of two distinct races
by the one, same name, ‘colored’, even while forcing
them together in apartheid. It is a mistake to assume
automatically that all peoples once called ‘colored’ in
that area and elsewhere in America are Blacks. Those
with Native American physical and cultural features,
along with more indicators unique to them, are Native
Americans! To learn those indicators read the editor’s
book, The Indians Who Gave Us Zydeco.
*The life story of Atákapa aviator, Alex A.
Boudreaux, of Lake Charles, LA has been published
by Hubert Daniel Singleton.
*At least one other Atákapa descendant has begun
writing her memories of her Atákapas forebears. Born
in LA, she now lives in CA.
*In Morgan City, LA, just east of the Atákapa-Ishák
homeland, stands a historic marker honoring The
Attakapa Militia(sic), military unit during Bernardo De
Galvez’s campaign against the British in America’s
Independence War. A Barras from St. Martinsville,
LA is listed. There are Barras from St. Martinsville
today who are descendants of Atákapas-Ishák.
*Most Rev. Bishop Pelotte, Native American and
head of the Assoc. for Native American Catholics,
has listed today’s Atákapas Catholic descendants in
that Association. Catholicism has been a mark of our
people for 300 years! It is now an indicator of our
*Artifacts and relics found by an enthusiast in 15
years of probing old Atákapan village sites around the
western edge of Vermilion Bay (south of Abbeville,
LA) include a human skull and Atákapan canoe’s
*The Chitimacha Tribe on their reservation at
Charenton,LA continue a historic, close friendship
with the Atákapas-Ishák. Atákapas were invited to a
summer event at Charenton. President Shirley
Barnaba attended. At the event, the Chitimachas
voiced their hope for State recognition of us
Sincerely I believe: A person ought never be
ashamed of his racial ancestry. No person ought
take lightly his racial ancestry and identity. No
person ought give up(!) his racial identity to please
others. Why do I believe that? I believe that
because I see a person’s racial identity as sacrosanct.
Others see it that way too! In our country and in
our homeland do I see other races meekly
forgetting their racial identity to please others? Noway!
So, why should Native Americans, specif. we
descendants, full or partial, of S.W.LA/S.E. TX
Atákapas-Ishák, forget ours? With absolutely no
mean, racist, divisive motive I believe a person has
natural and legal rights to cherish, stress or not
stress any and all of his racial ancestry as he wishes
while respecting the same rights of others. HDS«
Vol 3, No. 2; Summer Edition, July 2003, Hammond, LA 70403|
|TRIBE ASKS RESPECT
The Atakapas-Ishak Tribe finally put aside its long history of timidness. The Tribe has asked the State of Louisiana TO RESPECT IT AS S.W. LA's indigenous people. It was the Tribe's friend-at-heart, Velmer L. Smith of DeRidder, LA, who first made the petition. Rep. Elcie Guillory of Lake Charles sponsored the petition. Then, on June 4, tribal president Miss Shirley Barnaba, led a group of tribal members before the assigned committee, the Legislative Committee for Matters of Criminal Justice.
Committee chairman, Danny Martiny of Metairie, finally admitted to Miss Barnaba's questioning that such a tribal petition is directed to his Criminal Justice Committee for hearing because of a presumption that what a tribe really seeks is casino gambling rights, not identity recognition! Members protested that presumption about the Atakapas-Ishak is in error. They insisted that long denied, proper racial and tribal recognition is their only aim. Chairman Martiny did obliquely admit our people's proper racial recognition when he remarked several times "I do not doubt your Indian identity! It is casino gambling I oppose!"
The chairman demanded of the members a list of criteria or guidelines for the State's recognition of their tribe or any tribe. The hearing closed with the understanding that personnel of the State will draw up such criteria in a year. At that time the Atakapas-Ishak petition will again be heard. No clear indication was given at the hearing's closing whether tribal members will have input for drawing up the long-needed criteria.
SEARCH FOR BURIAL SITES OF TWO ATAKAPA WOMEN
(Cooperated with Smithsonian to Preserve the Tribe's Language)
More than a century after their memorable effort with the Smithsonian Institute to preserve Atakapa (name of Tribe's language) from dying out, the burial sites of the two Calcasieu River Band's members. They are Louisandre (Louison) Huntington (Kish Yuts) and Delilah (Delia) Moss (Morse) (Tok-toksh). Mr. Hall found the Internet address where all recorded burial sites in Louisiana can be accessed. At present tribal member Ms. Rachel Mouton of Carencro, LA is trying to find time in her very busy schedule to search the Internet records. For what Kish Yuts and Tok-toksh did, both women deservedly can be considered the historical era's Mothers of our People! If we can find their burial sites both sites forever deserve our people's full respect!
TO SPELL OUR TRIBAL NAME
Your newsletter has learned the preferred spelling of our tribal name: Atakapas-Ishak for the plural and Atakapa-Ishak for the singular. Note that the name Ishak has only one spelling. It is spelled the same for singular and plural. The authoritative source of this information is the Smithsonian's "Dictionary of the Atakapa Language." The spelling was called to our attention by the Louisiana's State historian. Meanwhile, know that the singular form, Atakapa, by itself is used for the name of our language. And that singular form, Atakapa, is used for the adjective referring to the people (e.g. He is an Atakapa dancer.) Atakapan, however, is used for the adjective referring to the people's things (e.g. It is an Atakapan dance.
'JAMBALAYA' FOUND TO BE WORD OF ATAKAPAN ORIGIN
A search for the origin and meaning of the strange word 'jambalaya' led H.D. Singleton straight to Atakapa, our language! He found the word 'jambalaya' is the result of early Louisiana Spaniards only slightly altering what appears to be an Atakapan exhortation to enjoy a dish: "Sham,pal ha! ("Be stout, not skinny! Eat up!") The Indians' jovial expression seems to be in the same spirit as similar European expressions like 'Bon appetit!" and "Enjoy!", also "Mange!" Four of the Spaniards' five slight, phonetic alteratins of "Sham,pal ha! Ya!" to 'jambalaya' are authenticated via the Dictionary of the Atakapa Language; one of the alterations is authenticated in the University of Chicago Spanish English Dictionary and in others like it. Singleton has not learned when the Indians' jovial exhortation to enjoy a dish became the name for the dish.
|1. Our tribe twice has been honored in Beauregard Parish, LA; first, back in 1995 by the naming of that stretch of US 190 between DeRidder and Merryville, LA "The Atakapa-Coushatta Trace." Then, at the end of 2002 a permanent highway historical marker was dedicated to the memory of olden Atakapas whose system of foot trails across S.W. LA/S.E. TX became, in some places, the precursor routes for highways of the automobile era. The inspiration and guiding force behind both honors were by Velmer Lenora Smith of DeRidder, Long-time friend-at-heart of the area's native people. Mrs. Smith maintains a very commendable historical museum in DeRidder. She has dedicated space in her museum to artifacts by and information about the Atakapa-Ishak.
2. The Governon's Office for Indian Affairs at Baton Rouge, LA recently encouraged our tribe to come forward, make initial, council-forming steps leading to other steps that will finally lead, it is hoped, to State recognition. Our tribe already has a council, formed and holding firm to its commitment to serve even after five long years of no visible progress toward recognition. However, though unseen, the groundwork to unite our people was being laid. Singleton's long, patient work pushed on to learn and to spread word among our people about just who they are, just who were their ancestors, and what was their history, their culture, their own language, also what happened in the past that our people's native identity became confused, clouded, and even lost to so many of us today. At this time, winter 2003, Atakapa-Ishak descendants again are being asked to mail to Singleton (at address at bottom) a.) their name, b.) mailing address, c.) phone number (also e-mail address if there is one, and d.) the names of your Atakapa parents and grandparents, also great grandparents, if known; then for each of these foreparents add the name of the place where each was born and/or lived if known.
Tribal members will mourn the passing of President Carter's ambassador to Kenya and the Seychelles, Dr. Wilbert LeMelle of New Iberia, LA. Though in High offices, he kept close to his Atakapa-Ishak roots. His wife, Dr. Yvonne Tauriac LeMelle, and children survive him.
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