Chretien takes charge as principal chief of Atakapa-Ishak tribe

By By Ashley Withers / American Press

A change in leadership is breathing new life into the Atakapa-Ishak tribe, a group of Native Americans located in Southwest

Louisiana and Southeast Texas.

Edward Chretien Jr. became the principal chief of the tribe in May and has made it his primary goal to unify and educate the


Chretien held an information session for Attakapas and interested community members Saturday morning at Riverside Park on

Fitzenreiter Rd. The event was the first gathering led by Chretien.

“This event is to introduce myself as the new principal chief of this tribe and also to educate the people about our culture

and our history, especially the younger kids,” Chretien said.

“We are one of the aboriginal tribes of Louisiana and we lived all along these water shores and I want to educate the people

on our history.”

Historically, the Attakapas lived on

the Northeast shore of Lake Charles and the Calcasieu Parish name

originated from their

language. Calcasieu means “Crying Eagle” in Attakapan and the

chief of the tribe is always called Chief Crying Eagle. Chretien

follows that tradition.

“We have to continue living in the native way and continue honoring the previous chiefs. I have to carry his name to honor

him, not myself.”

Chretien said he has always been passionate about the Attakapan culture.

“I had a passion for my identity. I was born and raised in Louisiana and all my people were born and raised here. My family

goes back to the last 1700s that I’ve traced,” he said.

“I want my ancestors that went on before me and those that went on after me to know their identity. That’s my passion.”

The tribe’s history is deeply ingrained in the culture of Southwest Louisiana.

Tasso and oyster pie are traditional Attakapan foods and Zydeco is a version of the tribe’s “good time dance.”

Chretien brought tribal artifacts to the gathering as well as informational pamphlets to help educate event attendees.

Gerald Abshire traced his lineage and got involved with the tribe about three years ago.

“I was trying to find out where my family came from,” he said. “I came out today just to be enlightened and to learn more

about it and how they lived.”

Abshire brought Janet Severdia to the event. Severdia is not a member of the tribe, but she said she attends Attakapan events

“every chance” she gets.

“I’m interested in learning about the Native Americans. It broadens my horizons,” she said.

Chretien said the tribe has around 1,800 registered members.

“We have people that are scattered about that I want to reunite. I need to unify my people. That’s my goal.”

Beyond unification, the tribe faces another issue — acknowledgement. The tribe is recognized by the U.S., Louisiana and Texas,

but it is not acknowledged, meaning that the tribe is extinct in the eyes of the government.

Chretien said he has already started the application process and hopes the tribe will be acknowledged soon.

“We are going to educate the tribe and be ready to present to the government why we should be acknowledged. We’re going to

be ready and it’s going to happen.”