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Loyola University New Orleans Hosts Panel Talk: Perspectives of Indigenous Women

Loyola press release - April 30, 2018

Loyola University New Orleans hosts a panel talk tonight titled “Perspectives of Indigenous Women.” The talk, brought to Loyola by Students Against Sexual Assault, the Women’s Resource Center, is funded by the university’s Diversion and Inclusion Committee. The panel talk takes place at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 30, 2018 in the St. Charles Room, located on the first floor of the Danna Student Center.

Panelists will address land loss and environmental issues facing indigenous communities, ways in which to preserve indigenous culture, issues specific to indigenous peoples of Southeast Louisiana, and how the tricentennial is viewed through an indigenous lens.

“It is so often that women are left out of the narrative in the media, history, and in politics. However, it’s normally women who are on the front lines of every social movement yet aren’t getting the credit they deserve,” said Loyola senior Sequoya La Joy. “Indigenous women are no exception and are so often left out, glossed over, erased, and ignored. It is indigenous communities who first feel the pain of land loss, erasure, colonization, political corruption, and environmental issues and yet they are so often forgotten. This event is literally and figuratively designed to give a voice to those indigenous women and provide a platform for them to talk about the issues facing their communities and all of Louisiana.”

Serving as panelists are:

  • Cherri Foytlin is a mother, activist, and writer. She writes Bridge the Gulf: Voices from the Gulf Coast blog and is the director of Bold Louisiana. An environmentalist and activist focused on coastal wetland issues, she is currently working to stop construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline.
  • Bette Billiot, secretary to the chief of the Houma Nation, is also an activist highly involved in coastal issues. Billiot helped start Gulf South Rising, an initiative to fund local projects around New Orleans and Houma and hosts an annual summer camp designed to teach children about tribal crafts and a little bit of history! A recipient of the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy 2014 Gulf Guardian Fellowship, is raising three sons.
  • Jessica Parfait, archivist for the Houma tribe for the last three years, heads the tribe’s domestic violence program and has digitized and organized historical information for the Houma Nation. A graduate student at LSU working on her master’s degree in anthropology, she is not studying the adaptive capacity of the tribe with help through a project led by SeaGrant Louisiana and UNO-CHART. Through this project, tribe members talk to Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) experts about manmade and natural disasters and how they have adapted, joining coastal experts at sea and using GIS to map areas of impact and interest. Parfait considers this work “a form of resistance;” she hopes to disseminate this information to the tribe with timelines and easy-to-navigate story maps that she predicts will show the impact of the oil industry in the area.
  • Lora Ann Chaisson is a tribal councilwoman who serves District 2 (which consists of Bourg, Chauvin, Grand Bois, Isle de Jean Charles, Montegut, and Pointe aux Chene, La.) and is the UHN delegate to the National Congress of American Indians. The daughter of Theo and the late Betty Chaisson and a traditional basket weaver, she made her first presentation on behalf of the Houma people in 1980, and from that day on the has promoted the Houma People locally, nationally, and internationally via Proud Houma Heritage. A part owner of Isle de Jean Charles Marine Inc., she has worked as a job developer for the Inter-Tribal Council of Louisiana since 1994 and serves on two regional Workforce Investment Boards representing Louisiana's American Indian people. She is a 1998 alumna of the American Indian Opportunity Ambassador Program, a national organization encouraging tribal leadership, which also includes Anne White Hat.
  • Anne White Hat is a member of the Aske Tiospaye (clan) of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate, one of the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires of the Lakota Oyate (the Lakota Nation). Her father’s side of the family are direct descendants of Chief Iron Shell, and her grandfather was Chief Hollow Horn Bear. Her tribe lived near the Black Hills of South Dakota. The 1886 treaty created the great Sioux Reservation. Her tribe reveres the Black Hills, home to prairie grassland, pine forests, rivers, lots of creeks, and a wide variety of wildlife.

    White Hat leads herb and wellness workshops and reaches out to urban Indians, regional tribes, and anyone who wants to learn the practical knowledge of plants and healing. In the 1990s, she helped form the Sicangu Way of Life Project on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, an organization committed to re-establishing and strengthening sustainable communities grounded in Lakota thought and philosophy. SWL works to revive traditional holistic and cultural practices by providing educational programming and resources to perpetuate collective responsibility as Keepers of He Sapa, the sacred Black Hills. They established an herbal cooperative, an economic development venture designed to promote community building and wellness through traditional plants and healing education.

    White Hat also provided herbal preparations for a Traditional Plants Healing Project at Oglala Lakota College. She shares reproductive health and wellness programs that are reviving age-old Lakota midwifery practices and addressing policy issues that impact rights to culturally appropriate healthcare. Keepers of He Sapa programs strengthen cultural connection to the Black Hills through language immersion and youth programs; treaty rights education and curriculum development; and environmental protection and stewardship of the Black Hills. White Hat also serves on the Honor the Earth Advisory Board, a nonprofit that raises money to work with grassroot groups working to protect native home lands and sacred sites. She is active in coastal issues and fighting to stop the Bayou Bridge pipeline.

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