History and Current Status of the Houma Indians

History and Current Status of the Houma Indians

Midcontinent American Studies Journal
Volume 6, Number 2 (Fall 1965)
pages 149-163

Ann Fischer
Tulane University

Brewton Berry, in Almost White, reports that there are some 200 groups of “racial orphans” in the United States. Among these, those who have some claim to Indian ancestry are known as “so-called Indians.” This term is apt, for these peoples have a tenuous racial status. Although so called Indians are of mixed ancestry, they emphasize their Indian identity. Mulatto groups, on the other hand, consider their own status to be midway between white and Negro. Both Mulatto and so-called Indian groups may be found today in Louisiana, living in separate, isolated social units. In these Indian groups in Louisiana, there has been consistent strong resistance to identification with Negroes. Whites, Indians and Negroes agree that as a result of this resistance the Indian groups are more deprived than Negroes who live in the same areas. The racial status of these people varies from parish to parish, and migration can often overcome the problems of racial identity.

The so-called Indians of Louisiana live in settlements which are isolated from the Negro settlements of the same area. Negroes work in the cane fields and usually live in identical unpainted houses in rows perpendicular to the road, surrounded by sugar cane fields. Indians live in houses, often run-down, along the levees in the typical line villages of the bayou country. In many parts of this region white and Indian houses maybe mixed in the line villages, due to the movement of the whites down the line. Negro and Indian housing, on the other hand, is never mixed in the situations which I have observed. Many Indians know no Negroes, and when they compare themselves to any other group it is usually to the white French. They reject the white judgment that they are sexually immoral, pointing out, probably accurately, that the same sexual patterns are common to both groups. It is in sexual behavior and the differences in the standard of living that Indians compare themselves to others. When Indians improve their economic circumstances and these improvements become visible, they feel that the whites resent their successes and think they are not entitled to them…

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