About Bulbancha
"The place of many languages" or, "the place of many tongues," is the original name for the Greater New Orleans area. Depending on what orthography one uses for Choctaw language, it could also be spelled "Balbancha". For the purpose of this zine and website, we are using the orthography from Allen Wright's 1880 book A Chahta Lexikon.

Bulbancha is much older than New Orleans. Before the first Europeans came here, it was a place where people from around 40 distinct Native groups crisscrossed, traded, followed game and fish, moved due to rising and falling waters, and interacted with one another. Like today, Bulbancha was a place of diversity and of changes, where people came and went in search of what they needed. And just like the New Orleans of today, Bulbancha was a complex, multi-ethnic, multicultural place. Explore the history of Bulbancha via this video.
Resources
Discover new sources and individuals to follow to stay informed about Indigenous culture in New Orleans, the Gulf South, and beyond.

Bulbancha Today
Many individuals and systems of oppression in New Orleans (and throughout Louisiana) serve to deny the existence of Indigenous people in the region, and to ignore their successes, challenges, and needs. This oppression takes place in everything from the way that Native issues and struggles have been glossed over in New Orleans Tricentennial propaganda, to the various micro aggressions and willful ignorance of many that dismisses and erases the experiences of Indigenous people.

Representation Matters
Can you recall the last time a local news organization in New Orleans covered Indigenous communities in the area (without it being the same performance/history based format)? Neither can we. For example, the Perspectives of Indigenous Women was a panel held on April 30, 2018, at Loyola University in the St. Charles Room of the Danna Center. The event included five Native women (their writing is featured in the zine) who discussed a variety of the issues within Indigenous communities and women of Southeast Louisiana. Not a single local news organization in New Orleans covered this event. Additionally, on May 25, 2018, the New Orleans Jazz Museum hosted a a panel discussion of Native cultural traditions in New Orleans, including personal experiences, family histories, and social practices, as well as responses to Native experiences, including the cultural system of the Mardi Gras Indians. Local media did not cover this event. We could go on with more examples over the last 10+ years, but these two suffice to make our point:

If you were to go solely by local news coverage, you might believe that Indigenous people don't exist in New Orleans. Representation matters. There is something very wrong with the fact that Indigenous lives in New Orleans are treated as an afterthought by city government and the local media. There is something very wrong with looking at Native culture as something of the past, but not of the present. This erasure perpetuates systems of oppression. We've seen this before throughout history, all over the world. And it is happening right now, in New Orleans.

In Bulbancha, Native people are active in their communities and have value. In New Orleans, it is still up for debate whether this city cares about the Indigenous population. We challenge those who read Bulbancha Is Still A Place to consider shifting their thinking about what it means to live in New Orleans and to support New Orleans, and what it means to show solidarity with Indigenous communities in New Orleans/Bulbancha and beyond (order now). Bulbancha is still - and always will be - a place.

About Indigenous People In New Orleans
According to the U.S. Census, the "American Indian" and Alaska Native population consists of 6.7 million people, including those of more than one race. They made up about 2.0 percent of the total population in 2016. There are 21 states with 100,000 or more "American Indian" and Alaska Native residents, alone or in combination (as of 2016). In New Orleans, approximately 2,700 people identify as having "American Indian"/Alaska Native background, comprising 0.7% of the city’s population. In Louisiana as a whole, the percentage is slightly higher, at 1.3%. The original inhabitants of the land that New Orleans sits on were the Chitimacha, with the Atakapa, Caddo, Choctaw, Houma, Natchez, and Tunica inhabiting other areas throughout what is now Louisiana.

Learn more about the four federally-recognized tribes in Louisiana: the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, and the Tunica-Biloxi Indian Tribe of Louisiana. The Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana is the only Louisiana tribe to still live on a section of their original homeland, with a reservation located near the town of Charenton, approximately two hours from New Orleans.

State-recognized tribes of Louisiana include the Adai Caddo Tribe, the Biloxi-Chitimacha Confederation of Muskogee, Choctaw-Apache Community of Ebarb, Clifton Choctaw, Four Winds Tribe Louisiana Cherokee Confederacy, Grand Caillou/Dulac Band, Isle de Jean Charles Band, Louisiana Choctaw Tribe, Pointe-Au-Chien Indian Tribe, and the United Houma Nation.

Mardi Gras Indians
It is important to note a nuanced aspect of New Orleans culture: Mardi Gras Indians. These communities are comprised of Black / Creole / Native members who participate in performances and parades during the Carnival season and throughout the year. According to oral history, this tradition began in the eighteenth century and has several possible origins. Historically, local Indigenous tribes hid runaway enslaved Black folks, and some people view Mardi Gras Indians as honoring the history of the two cultures. Others point to the collective racism and violence that both Black and Indigenous communities in the area faced as a shared experience.
Be Mindful Of The Space You Take Up - And How You Influence Perception.
It is wonderful that the American Library Association currently has a page on their website devoted to information about Indigenous Tribes of New Orleans and Louisiana. It is important for institutions - especially those with a substantial platform - to support Indigenous groups. Unfortunately, it is clear that the ALA did not consult with local Indigenous and Mardi Gras Indian groups in New Orleans to confirm the accuracy and cultural competency of the content on their page. Why? Because as of right now, the ALA's page is the #1 organic search result of "Indigenous new orleans tribes" and "Indigenous new orleans" but there are some significant errors on the page (see below for specifics). The ALA is the #1 search result for these search terms because of their perceived authority on these topics bestowed to the ALA by Google, which weights their page over even local Indigenous websites who share more accurate information. 
Words Are Powerful.
Here is the paragraph that warranted a note on the importance of institutions consulting with local Indigenous groups to make sure the information that they share is accurate:

In a discussion of indigenous history of the area, it is important to note one visible and controversial aspect of New Orleans culture, Mardi Gras Indians – hierarchical “tribes” comprised of African-American members who participate in performances and parades during the Carnival season. According to oral history, this tradition began in the eighteenth century and has several possible origins. Historically, local indigenous tribes hid runaway Black slaves, and some people view Mardi Gras Indians as honoring the history of the two cultures. Others point to the collective racism and violence that both Black and indigenous communities in the area faced as a shared experience. However, because of the exaggerated costumes that are meant to mimic some traditional indigenous dress, and the usage of “tribes,” there is a question of whether this is cultural appropriation.

POC Zine Project's Statement 
The evidence shared here is not to vilify or condemn the American Library Association, but to provide a clear and recent example of how institutions can unintentionally uphold systems of oppression and language that dehumanizes Black and Indigenous folks, even when their intent is to provide support and awareness. We can always do better in our solidarity efforts, and institutions should always prioritize consulting with local Indigenous groups when compiling information about Indigenous lives and histories. There are many local Indigenous scholars who are available to fact-check and consult on compendiums and other resources created by institutions such as the ALA.

- To use "runaway Black slaves" to describe the experiences of Black people is to choose to continue upholding dehumanizing vernacular. Black people aren't slaves. They weren't slaves then, and they aren't slaves now. Enslaved Black people  or enslaved people from the African diaspora is an accurate and culturally competent description to use. We encourage all institutions and authors to stop using "Black slaves" when describing the experiences of Black people.  

- Mardi Gras Indians do a lot more than performances and parades, and their activities and community initiatives happen throughout the year, not just during Carnival season. Their most important holiday also takes place after Mardi Gras - it is St. Joseph's Night. 

 - If you are going to mention the supposed "controversial" aspects of Mardi Gras Indian culture, it is important to specify that many of the people who find Mardi Gras Indian culture controversial are transplants in New Orleans, and others who don't understand / realize that many Mardi Gras Indians have Indigenous ancestry, are often involved in other indigenous groups. White and Non-Native folks are not in a position to weigh in on whether or not Mardi Gras Indian culture is "controversial". The Indigenous people who do find aspects of Mardi Gras Indian culture problematic are able to - and do - cite specific examples that they deem problematic. If you intend to write about this subject (even in a short blurb), it is important to specify this distinction. 

Again, the intention here isn't to vilify or shame the American Library Association. We point this out to demonstrate how institutions can easily spread misinformation on the web that reinforces oppression and stereotypes for marginalized groups, because the institution's authority is often weighted by Google over that of the marginalized groups they are describing or documenting. This reality makes it especially important for institutions to do their due diligence.
Resources Continued (In Progress)
Ten Years Since: A Meditation on New Orleans
Excerpt: Raised black in New Orleans and having made it to this side of these 10 years, I remember that with living comes the sacred responsibility of recalling. New Orleans has always been a place of many peoples. The Chata (Choctaw) named the city Bulbancha, “Many Languages Spoken There,” and the Ishak call it Nun Ush, “The Big Village.” Many of the places and locations known to tourists and travelers worldwide, such as the Port of New Orleans, the French Market, and Congo Square, served as thoroughfares for trade and culture long before the arrival of whites. Born and raised black in New Orleans, I speak an English marked by its African and Native vocabularies and patterns of speech.

Atakapa-Ishak Nation
Today, the Atakapa’s are a mixed heritage people and would like to honor every piece of their lineage. They are confident people, proud of their heritage, and realize who they are. It is now time for the State of Louisiana and the Federal Government to do the same. Additional information regarding the process for Federal Recognition can be seen here: SEVEN CRITERIA FOR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Support the Atakapa-Ishak language book
 For the benefit of the Atakapa-Ishak nation, so that the Atakapa-Ishak people can relearn their heritage language.

Bulbancha Intertribal Association
To promote and preserve Native culture and peoples in the New Orleans area.

Links compiled by the American Library Association:
Contact Us
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