National Native American Heritage Month

Loyola University New Orleans will be spotlighting some of our prominent faculty, staff, students and alumni in our monthly Heritage and Awareness Month web series.

This month, let’s learn about some of the remarkable Native American members of our community!

Dr. Gregory O. Gagnon

Dr. Gregory O. Gagnon


Dr. Gregory Gagnon has served as Adjunct Professor at Loyola College of Law, teaching American Indian Law, since 2014. His singular expertise prompted Fr. Lawrence Moore, S.J., former Dean of the College of Law, to declare: "Dr. Gagnon must be the only person permitted to teach American Indian Law at Loyola—ever." Dr. Gagnon joined Loyola after retiring from his 22-year tenure as American Indian Studies faculty member and lecturer at the Law School of the University of North Dakota (UND). Prior to UND, he was academic vice president at Oglala Lakota College, where he taught tribal government and federal Indian policy courses.

Dr. Gagnon, a citizen of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa, Crane clan, consults with several tribes across the US, including Navajo, White Earth, Leech Lake, Lac Courte Oreilles, Spirit Lake, Sisseton-Wahpeton, and Pine Ridge. He has also been a consultant for the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools on issues involving tribal colleges and accreditation, conducted board training for tribal college boards of trustees, and been a continuing consultant at Oglala Lakota College.

Dr. Gagnon founded and supervised the first tribal police academy (on Pine Ridge Reservation) and worked with the Oglala Public Safety Commission and tribal courts. Before moving to Pine Ridge in 1980-1981, he was the Director of the Prison Education Network in New Jersey and lectured at the NJ State Police Academy and the New Jersey Corrections Academy. Dr. Gagnon has published in law and Indian Studies journals and several books. The Story of the Chippewa will be released in November, 2018. He has lectured on tribal government, sovereignty, the status of American Indian Law, and intercultural relations for foundations, the US Border Patrol, and the Humanities Councils of three different states. He has rendered an expert opinion in a pending voting rights case for the Native American Rights Fund and continues to be a source consulted by media. His graduate degrees are from the University of Maryland and his undergraduate degree is from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

Dr. Gagnon’s students at Loyola are welcomed to the Chitimacha Tribal Court each semester. The Chitmacha chief judge, the prosecutor, the tribally-funded public defender and the clerk of court regularly meet with the students. Several students have continued with American Indian law cases after graduation.

Dr. Gagnon is married with three adult children, eleven grandchildren, and one great grandchild. In addition to living in New Orleans from December to June, he and his wife have a home in Virginia—to escape the summer heat. He also volunteers at the Audubon Zoo and Jean Lafitte National Park.

Monique Verdin, ‘11

Monique Verdin, ‘11


Monique Verdin, ‘11, is an award-winning filmmaker and daughter of southeast Louisiana’s United Houma Nation. For nearly 20 years, she has documented, through film, photography, and performance, the challenges coastal Louisiana faces, focusing particular attention on the lifeways and experiences of members of the Houma Nation.

Monique resides in St. Bernard Parish, where she was born and raised. Her grandparents, Armantine and Toussaint Verdin, migrated there from Terrebonne’s Pointe aux Chenes in the early 1940’s, with a small group of Houmas in search of work, land, voting rights, and access to education. Monique received her BA in Mass Communication at Loyola in 2011.

Monique’s work focuses on “the complex interconnectedness of environment, economics, culture, climate and change.” Her interdisciplinary work includes her award-winning documentary, My Louisiana Love (2012), for which she is the subject, co-writer, and co- producer; her multiplatform performance and eco-experience Cry You One (2012-2017); and the book Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas (2013), for which she is a contributor.

Monique is a member of the United Houma Nation Tribal Council and director of The Land Memory Bank & Seed Exchange, an experiential project dedicated to inspiring and actualizing Mississippi River Delta preservation, restoration and adaptations. She is also part of the Another Gulf Is Possible Collaborative core leadership circle of brown (indigenous, latinx and desi) women, from Texas to Florida, working to envision just economies, vibrant communities and sustainable ecologies.