About the Collaborative

In 2018, the Louisiana Folklore Society and the Louisiana Folklife Program partnered to offer coastal communities opportunities to learn traditions or document them. The project began at the March 2018 meeting of the Louisiana Folklore Society with conversations about the need to help communities deal with cultural issues while facing land loss. This grew into the Bayou Culture Collaborative. The first year focused on Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes, but has expanded to include all coastal parishes.

In November 2018, Jonathan Foret spoke about his motivation to focus on his community's traditions at this time. See his PechaKucha presentation here: Moving Traditions Forward

In 2022, the Louisiana Folklore Society started monthly online Bayou Culture Gatherings and hired Dr. Mike Saunders as the Bayou Culture Program Director. The LFS website has more information about the Bayou Culture Collaborative as well as upcoming events.

In 2022, the Collaborative adopted a position statement and invited organizations and individuals to sign-on. See the position statement here. A PDF of the statement is also available here.

Coastal Traditions

Traditional knowledge of the coast includes those about the land and wetlands in addiiton to traditions about all aspects of life. Tradition bearers would come from any of the traditional cultures from those descended from the earliest settlers to most recent immigrants.

Traditional wetlands occupations involved with harvesting fauna or flora, including shrimping, oystering, hunting, trapping alligator hunting, fishing, crabbing

Traditional uses of plants, such as those used for healing, wild plants collected to eat (elderberry), or less common vegetables grown such as mirliton or cushaw

Crafts that use fauna or flora, including, but not limited to, palmetto, rivercane, garfish scales, wood, chinaberry necklaces, wooden boats, model boats, wood carving, cypress basket making

Traditional landscapes such as the Marian apparition site Our Lady of the Bayou near Theriot in Terrebonne parish, the Vietnamese Catholic Church in Larose that features St Peter in a shrimp boat, traditional and contemporary homes adapted for flooding

Local legends related to the wetlands such as those about Jean Lafitte, feu follet, rougarou

Music traditions that reflect the wetlands, such as Isleno decimas and more recent songs written in traditional genres about land loss

Ritual traditions related to the wetlands such as blessings of the fleet and boat parades.

Houma Indian craft traditions
Ritual traditions
Living off the land

Bayou Culture Collaborative Workshops and Events
Supported by the Louisiana Folklife Program

Passing It On Workshops

See the online database of all past Passing It On Workshops since 2019 here. Search by tradition bearer, tradition, date, and workshop title.

Documentation and Writing Workshops

Spring 2023
United Houma Nation Artist Poster Project
United Houma Nation created the exhibit, "Exploring Tribal Arts of the Houma People" of 16 posters to be used in the UHN Cultural Arts Museum, Indian Education programs, K-12 classrooms, and by the artists at festivals. The exhibit consists of introductory and history/acknowledgement panels and 14 United Houma Nation artists and tradition bearers. Tyler Duplantis interviewed and photographed each artist and designed the posters.

October - November 2020
Botanica: A Series of Conversations
The Neighborhood Story Project produced a series of presentations for their project, Botanica, which is a multi-racial/ethnic collaboration that pulls together storytellers, scholars, herbalists, museums, artists, and gardeners to cross-pollinate knowledge of ethnobotany across communities in south Louisiana. At the heart of this project is the idea of reciprocal sharing—introducing traditional Indigenous knowledge of plants that Houma communities have been preserved in gardens with the region, and for healers in other communities to healing plants within the bayou communities. It is our hope that this project will create bridges between communities who have been segregated from one another to create long-lasting relationships. The work will include oral histories, portraits, photographs of plants and their healing properties, and recipes. Presenters included Monique Verdin, Land Memory Bank & Seed Exchange; Dr. Tammy Greer, Medicine Keeper, Citizen of the United Houma Nation, Medicine Keeper; Rachel Reeves, MayPop Community Herb Shop; Bvlbancha Collective (Angela Comeaux, Ida Aronson, Sasha Irby, Jenna Mae); Bruce Sunpie Barnes; Jenga Mwendo and Aloyd Edinburgh, Backyard Gardners Network of the Lower Ninth Ward.

October 26-27, 2019
Storytelling Stage and Community Quilt Project at the Rougarou Fest
The Rougarou Fest added a Storytelling Stage to share about local traditions with the help of folklorist Carolyn Ware. And festival attendees helped to create a community quilt with the assistance of Community Sew Organizer Renee Hoeprich and local quilters.

March 23, 2019
Bayou Culture @ Louisiana Folklore Society,
The Louisiana Folklore Society and Nicholls University Center for Bayou Studies offered presentations about community traditions in Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes at the society's 2019 annual meeting. Lanor Curol shared about the United Houma Nation herbal medicine traditions. Summer Skarke shared how her speech students learned about community traditions and then created a group poem on sense of place. Billie Babin talked about her family gumbo tradition and the Cajun Music Preservation Society performed. Jonathan Foret with the South Louisiana Wetlands Discover Center emceed the event and led everyone through an exercise to identify the traditions that need to be passed on to future generations.

June 22, 2019
Traditional Plant Storytelling And Watercolor Workshop
This workshop explored traditional uses of plants and then created watercolor paintings of them for a booklet to help preserve traditional knowledge of the area. The morning focused on sharing stories about traditional plants of the area. The afternoon was a watercolor workshop to paint our plants. Visual artist Mia Feuer guided participants in how to utilize watercolor and drawing techniques, as well as assist in the installation of the resulting exhibition in the community center. Liza Kachko provided expertise on the culturally significant and traditionally used plants, including identifying, and collecting plants for the workshop. This workshop was provided by the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe in Montegut for residents of communities along lower Hwy 665 in Terrebonne Parish

March 30, 2019
Exploring Local Folklife and Choosing What to Document
Paddy Bowman with Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education led this low-key, highly interactive workshop, which called on participants' personal traditions as a way of introducing folklife and documentation. Maida Owens shared examples of traditions that could be documented. Part One of the Documenting Bayou Culture Workshop Series with South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center and Terrebonne Parish Library.

April 10 and 16, 2019
Collecting Stories Workshops
The National Park Service and Lafourche Parish Libraries teamed up to offer two workshops-one in Thibodaux and one in Cut Off--on how to collect stories of life along Bayou Lafourche as part of the National Park Services Bayou Stories project. The workshops trained volunteers to be interviewers to help preserve local history. The workshop by Shana Walton of Nicholls State University Department of English addressed collecting sensitive subject stories in the area during this two hour workshop. Collaborators included Lafourche Parish Public Library, Nicholls State University English Department, National Park Service, Nicholls State University Psychology Department.

April 13, 2019
Getting Ready for Interviewing: Techniques for Documenting Local Stories and Knowledge
Lisa Rathje with Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education led this workshop using low-tech equipment and sharing easy, essential interview basics, facilitators to prepare community members to discover more about local traditions and stories through interviewing. Part Two of the Documenting Bayou Culture Workshop Series with South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center and Terrebonne Parish Library.

April 27, May 31, June 1, and June 22, 2019
Writing on the Bayou
Michael Martin with the Nicholls State University Department of English led four writing workshops in Thibodaux, Golden Meadow, Gray, and Destrehan. Participants explored memories of their community in workshops that were split into two parts. They started with a concentrated study of identity-centered, place-based, nonfiction writing, from national and regional writers. Participants brainstormed ideas for their own writings or discussed ongoing projects. The second part comprised of a hands-on writing workshop in which participants create their own place-based Louisiana nonfiction writing. Collaborators included the Center for Bayou Studies, Nicholls State University and the Lafourche Parish Public Library, Terrebonne Parish Library and St. Charles Parish Library.

April 27, 2019
Catch and Release: Documentary Photography and Videography For Your Community
This workshop provided hands-on practice with expert documentarians who taught basics as well as tips for more experienced participants to improve their media skills. Facilitators included John Sharp, Center for Louisiana Studies; Maida Owens, Louisiana Folklife Program; Philip Gould, photographer; and Monique Verdin; multi-media artist. Collaborators included South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center and the Terrebonne Parish Library. Part Three of the Documenting Bayou Culture Workshop Series.

May 11, 2019
Presenting, Archiving, and Funding Your Project
This workshop explored what you can do with your documentation. Presentations included issues with permanent, temporary and traveling exhibits by Maida Owens, Louisiana Folklife Program director; presenting traditions at the Finding Our Roots African American Museum in Houma by Margie Scoby (singing), Alvin Tillman (singing), Nelson Harris (drumming), and Jessica Brown (cloth doll making); folklife festival programming by Carolyn Ware, LSU Dept of English; Concerts by John Sharp, ULL Center for Louisiana Studies; Podcasts by Alexis Braud; Zines by Jeffery Darensbourg, Tulane Center for the Gulf South; Archiving by John Sharp, and funding by Maida Owens and Erica Anderson, Louisiana Division of the Arts. Part Four of the Documenting Bayou Culture Workshop Series.

Sense of Place and Loss Workshops

September 21, 2019
A Sense of Place—and Loss: Artists and Scientists Facing Change
Behind the national headlines about dramatic land loss in coastal Louisiana live traditional and contemporary artists who explore and incorporate their environment, ecology, and culture into their work in addition to scientists who examine these aspects. What may scientists learn from artists and vice versa? How may art–science collaborations have broader impacts to reach communities at risk? Regional artists, tradition bearers, cultural researchers, and scientists gathered for an immersive workshop to spend time together and explore issues to inspire advocacy and creativity in the face of land loss and cultural shifts.

September 29, 2020
Sense of Place—And Loss: The Arts and Creative Responses to Louisiana's Land Loss
The Bayou Culture Collaborative presented a workshop at the 2020 Arts Summit via Zoom to help artists and arts administrators explore the impact of south Louisiana's land loss on the arts communities statewide. This followed up on Xavier Cortada's message at the 2019 Louisiana Arts Summit. Presenters included Monique Verdin, Another Gulf is Possible; and Maida Owens, Louisiana Division of the Arts Folklife Program with facilitator Lisa Rathje, Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education.

February 25, 2021
Sense of Place--And Loss: Arts Role in Responding to Land Loss
The Bayou Culture Collaborative presented a workshop for Regional Arts Council and Cultural Districts staff along with State Arts Council and Folklife Commission members. Presenters included Monique Verdin, a multi-media artist and United Houma Nation member; Dr. Sharbreon Plummer, artist and researcher; Maida Owens, Louisiana Folklife Program director, and Kelsea McCrary, Louisiana Cultural Districts director.

Presenters included Paddy Bowman, Founding Director of Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education; Brandon Ballengée, visual artist and LSU biologist; Prosanta Chakrabarty, LSU Associate Professor and Curator of Ichthyology; Suzanne Fredericq, ULL Professor of Biology; Janie Luster, traditional Houma artist; and Lynda Frese, visual artist and ULL Professor Emerita. See more about the workshop and presenters here. The workshop was hosted by the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette.

April 13, 2021
Sense of Place—And Loss: Climate Change, Migration, and Sustaining Louisiana's Culture
The Bayou Culture Collaborative presented a workshop and asked these questions. How will our cultures change with increased climate migration away from coastal Louisiana? What aspects of your culture do you want your great grandchildren to share? If coastal Louisiana becomes uninhabitable within three generations, what should we be doing now? Monique Verdin shared her experience as an artist relocating after Hurricane Katrina. Maida Owens explore how sea level rise is affecting us and shared projections about the population shifts that have already started in addition to what the Bayou Culture Collaborative is doing to help sustain Louisiana's traditional cultures. Artist and researcher Dr. Sharbreon Plummer explored issues that people of color consider when relocating. Camille Manning-Broome, President and CEO of Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX), spoke about climate adaptation strategies and getting communities prepared for the population migration happening across Louisiana. Kelsea McCrary and Maida Owens led a discussion. This workshop is available online at Climate Change, Migration, and Sustaining Louisiana's Culture.

June 22, 2021
Sense of Place - and Loss: Artists, Land Loss, and Climate Change
The conversation continued about Louisiana's land loss and its effect throughout the state and how the arts can play a vital role in the cultural resilience conversation. Some Louisiana artists and arts organizations are already addressing land loss and climate migration issues. This workshop focused on their work and hopefully inspire others. The panel was hosted by folklorist Maida Owens with the Louisiana Division of the Arts ( and moderated by Dr. Jeffery Darensbourg, poet and researcher in New Orleans ( Panelists shared lessons learned and suggested strategies for others to get involved. Panelists Ama Rogan with Tulane's A Studio in the Woods shared about Studio's residencies that support artists in addressing the climate change impacts. Dr. Brandon Ballengée discussed his work being exhibited around the nation on the changing environment in Louisiana. Sam Oliver, Executive Director of the Acadiana Center for the Arts explored community programming around their upcoming exhibition of Ballengée's work. This workshop is available online at Artists, Land Loss, and Climate Change.

Existing Documentation

Below are essays on the Folklife in Louisiana website and other sources that address traditions in Louisiana's coastal communities.

Belief, Customs, and Ritual Traditions

Cultural Groups

Crafts and Material Culture

Living Off the Land