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.

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

February 17, 2019
Costume Designing with the King of Tradition
Sponsored by Krewe of Tradition,, in Houma, krewe members and guests to make costumes for their upcoming Mardi Gras parade. They learned how to design and build a costume from the King of Costuming, Lance Brown.

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.

March 29, 2019
Best Practices in Preserving Cajun Music
The Center for Bayou Studies, Nicholls State University in collaboration with The Cajun Music Preservation Society offered a workshop in Thibodaux by Cajun musician David Greely who provided an introduction to the history of Cajun Fiddle with a mix of lecturing and musical demonstrations. He included stories of how his work as a musician helped to preserve the music culture that was quickly slipping away in the 1970s when some of the last remaining members of the first generation of Cajun Recording Artists were being lost. All participants attending the workshop were invited to join in an Open Cajun Jam, beginning at 7:00 with the Cajun Music Preservation Society and David Greely providing musical leadership.

April 28, 2019
Making Houma Indian Gumbo at the Chauvin Folk Art Festival
Janie Luster and her daughter Ann Luster of Bayou DuLarge demonstrated how to make Houma Indian gumbo from Janie Luster and her daughter Ann Luster of Bayou DuLarge. Dr Robin White of Nicholls State University discussed French as spoken by the Houma Indians.

June 8 and 15, 2019
Beginners Introduction To Wood Carving
Gene Hebert taught wood carving along with participants in his classes at the Terrebonne Folklife Culture Center in Houma.

June 20 and 27, 2019
Traditional Houma Indian Palmetto Weaving
Palmetto weavers Louise Billiot and Janie Luster taught members of the United Houma Nation three traditonal methods of palmetto weaving, including the 4-strand or jigsaw style, the 7 or 9 strand technique, and the half-hitch coil basket.

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

June 24-28, 2019
Pointe Au Chien Indian Tribe Culture Camp
The Pointe au Chien Indian Tribe Culture Camp (PACIT) focused on traditional arts and crafts including decorative crafts such as regalia and shawls, food traditions such as cooking, and occupational crafts such as crab traps and blow guns. This camp was offered to tribal members

August 26-September 7, 2019
Houma Half-Hitch Palmetto Weaving and Spanish Moss Doll making
Master artists Janie Luster and Ann Luster taught traditional Houma Indian palmetto basket making and Spanish moss doll making in two series of workshops for youth and adults in Theriot, La. Janie Luster and her daughter Ann Luster are master palmetto basket weavers, Spanish moss doll makers, and cultural preservationists of the United Houma Nation. Hailing from the community of Bayou DuLarge in Terrebonne Parish, Janie comes from a long line of traditional healers and is a tribal advocate.

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 - May, 2020
Brown Cotton Weaving
Elaine Larcade Bourque taught Austin Clark the tradition of carding, spinning, and weaving brown cotton weaving as practiced by Gladys Clark and the LeBlanc family in a series of classes. They focused on the entire process from planting, harvesting, ginning to carding, spinning, weaving, and dyeing including the different Acadian patterns and the Acadian French terms used for the process and tools.

June 2020
Sewing Regalia Workshops
Chief Shirell Parfait-Dardar of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw taught a series of four sewing workshops in Chauvin. The first covered basic skills and hand stitching. The second covered machine stitching. The third focused on special occasion wear, such as regalia. The fourth covered decorating special occasion wear/regalia with garfish scales and beading.

November 19-21, 2020
Grand Bayou Indian Foodways
The Atakapa-Ishak Chawasha of Grand Bayou Indian Village celebrated tribal life and foodways at their tribal center in Plaquemines Parish. Recognizing that food harvesting and preparation is important to their people and that foods and traditions are an integral part of fellowship, they hosted a three-day, multi-generational Native foods sovereignty gathering. Seven elders prepared the native dishes in the traditional manner and explained cleaning, cooking methods, and time from preparation to completed dish. Ladonna Sylvé made shrimp and crab stuffed peppers. Carmalita Sylvé made Indian mustard (fried). Rev. Bennie Ancar made couvillion (fish stew). Vicky Bennett made Indian rice with avocado. David Reyes made herbed shrimp loaf. Kim Sylvé made orange pie, her family's traditional dessert. And Rosina Philippe made seafood stew with wild game (gumbo).

September - November 2020
Cypress Paddle Making
The Center for Traditional Louisiana Boat Building offered four classes on making cypress paddles using recycled cypress. Master boat builder Ernie Savoie taught the classes at the center in Lockport.

September 19, 2020
Cloth Doll Making
Jessica Brown with Jessy's Dolls, offered a cloth doll making workshop for girls in the age range of 6 to 16. The workshop taught girls how to make cloth dolls and learn stuffing, stitching, and dressing, while inspiring pride, self-love, confidence and creativity with step-by-step instructions. They learned a brief history about dolls and cultural awareness. Each girl brought home her very own doll after she finished creating her. The workshop was hosted by Finding Our Roots African American Museum in Houma.

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 2020
Cypress Dugout Pirogue Restoration
The Center for Traditional Boatbuilding offered a series of four workshop on restoring a cypress dugout pirogue at the center in Lockport. Master boat builder Ernie Savoie taught the classes at the center in Lockport and covered the methods and techiques using traditional hand tools.

December 2020
Palmetto weaving and Spanish Moss Workshop
Janie Luster taught a series of four workshops on Houma Indian palmetto weaving to adults and youth in Theriot, Louisiana.

January - June 2021
Brown Cotton Weaving
Master weaver and spinner Elaine Bourque worked with apprentice Austin Clark on the tradition of brown cotton weaving as practiced Gladys Clark and the LeBlanc family. They focused on duplicating cotonade patterns in public and private collections and then making a pattern book. They used dyes as used by the Acadians, such as indigo and walnut.

March 2021
Louisiana's Medicinal Herbs and the Traiteuse Tradition
Marlène Toups presented twice on French healing traditions and the tradition of traiteurs/traeuses in Louisiana. The first was in French in-person and on Zoom for the Cercle francohone at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. The second was in English via Zoom. Originally from LaFourche Parish, she shared her knowledge of the medicinal plants traditionally used at home by a traiteuse in her family.

March - June 2021
Expanding Traditions
The United Houma Nation offered a series of four workshops, including Storytelling with Grayhawk Perkins; Tribal Histories Written and Unwritten with Kathleen Bergeron, Michael Dardar and Donnie Verdin; Traditional Singing and Drumming with Grayhawk Perkins, Chief August Creppel, and Calvin Parfait; and Traditional Plant Knowledge with Tammy Greer, Ida Aronson, and Joshua Pitre. Presented via Zoom, they were able to connect with tribal members that do not live in the six-parish service area. The events were moderated and organized by Lanor Curole and Melanie Hayes.

January 7, 2022
Vermilion Parish Cajun Songs and Dance Workshop
Sponsored by Acadian Museum in Erath, the work of Catherine Brookshire Blanchet was featured in this song and dance workshop by Earlene Broussard, Natial d'Augereaux, and Linda Hebert. In the 1940s, Catherine documented songs and round dances in French by recording school children and adults when she was music supervisor of Vermilion Parish Schools. She dedicated the rest of her life to teaching and sharing this treasury. Descendants of the people she recorded, her students, and the community were invited to the Vermilion Parish Public Library in Abbeville to remember Catherine, to sing and dance. In the afternoon, they taught songs and dance to French immersion students at LeBlanc Elementary School.

Documentation and Writing Workshops

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