LPB documentary on Chitimacha Tribe going nationwide

Louisiana Public Broadcasting’s recent documentary recounting the history and cultural connection of the Chitimacha Tribe to the Atchafalaya Basin has been picked up for nationwide distribution.

Native American Public Telecommunications has announced that the program will become available to public broadcasting stations across the United States in April.

NAPT awarded a grant to LPB in the developmental stages of the program “Native Waters: A Chitimacha Recollection” in 2010.

“This is the story of thin places, the fragility of a land, the fragility of a culture, the thinness of the world between us and our ancestors,” said Senior Producer Tika Laudun, director and producer of the documentary. “Because of everything that surrounds our everyday world, we don’t always take the time to sit back and open ourselves up to the more spiritual, more intense experiences. We just don’t listen to it anymore, sometimes not intentionally.”

Laudun, a native of Franklin, said the show was especially poignant to her. “This was going home for me—those waters and those lands. I spent much of my childhood fishing with my grandfather in the basin. I knew it was a very special place, because I loved being there with him. It was a spiritual renewal for me to be back there, but to be there with someone who had such a greater depth of knowledge of these ancestral areas than I had as a child. This was a way of going home and looking at it through the eyes of someone who had this knowledge of 8,000 years past.”

“Native Waters” traces the history of the “people of the many waters” and their connection to the ancestral waterways of the Atchafalaya River Basin. The film emphasizes that there are different means of knowing and remembering, and they are not mutually exclusive. Co-writer and narrator Roger Stouff, a Chitimacha tribal member, guides audiences “on a journey into sacred places as he provides Native stories and perspectives about this often overlooked people,” according to the NAPT press release.

Chitimacha Tribal Chairman John Darden describes the art of Chitimacha basket weaving during the program, noting the tangible connection between basket designs and the natural world within which the tribe made their home. Chitimacha Cultural Director Kimberly S. Walden addresses not only the historical significance of the tribe but also the cultural renaissance it has recently experienced thanks to the efforts of tribal government’s support of the cultural department.

Co-producer Charles Richard, director of the Center for Moving Image Arts at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, said that alternative approach to history is what attracted him most to the project.

“The Chitimacha Indians remember their history through myth and storytelling,” Richard said. “And, as a member of that tribe, Roger Stouff is an exceptional storyteller. I took tremendous delight in culling through the volumes of stories he has written about his people — many of them handed down through uncounted generations — then selecting and crafting those stories into a film script. I felt very honored to work with him in shaping his people’s collective memory into a modern medium.”

The program will be available to public broadcasting stations in six releases over a course of four years. Exact programming schedules have not yet been set.

The film was photographed and edited by Rex Fortenberry, a 20-year veteran of television and documentary videography, sound and editing.

“Native Waters: A Chitimacha Recollection” first aired in March on LPB. It was nominated for a Suncoast regional Emmy Award but no award was made in the cultural documentary category during awards ceremonies in December.

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