Helping to sustain the traditional cultures of coastal Louisiana

In collaboration with the Louisiana Folklore Society and other organizations, the Folklife Program is offering activities to help to sustain the traditional knowledge of coastal communities affected by land loss in Lafourche, St Mary, Terrebonne, and lower Jefferson Parishes. We are especially interested in supporting traditions that are endangered due to land loss. The activities will be at a variety of locations throughout the area, and will vary from workshops, classes, and presentations about local traditions or how to sustain them.

Bayou Traditions

Traditional knowledge of the coast includes those about the land and wetlands in addiiton to traditions about all aspects of life. Tradition bearers would come from any of the traditional cultures from those descended from the earliest settlers to most recent immigrants.

  • Traditional wetlands occupations involved with harvesting fauna or flora, including shrimping, oystering, hunting, trapping alligator hunting, fishing, crabbing
  • Traditional uses of plants, such as those used for healing, wild plants collected to eat (elderberry), or less common vegetables grown such as mirliton or cushaw
  • Crafts that use fauna or flora, including, but not limited to, palmetto, rivercane, garfish scales, wood, chinaberry necklaces, wooden boats, model boats, wood carving, cypress basket making
  • Traditional landscapes such as the Marian apparition site Our Lady of the Bayou near Theriot in Terrebonne parish, the Vietnamese Catholic Church in Larose that features St Peter in a shrimp boat, traditional and contemporary homes adapted for flooding
  • Local legends related to the wetlands such as those about Jean Lafitte, feu follet, rougarou
  • Music traditions that reflect the wetlands, such as Isleno decimas and more recent songs written in traditional genres about land loss
  • Ritual traditions related to the wetlands such as blessings of the fleet and boat parades.

Workshops, Classes, Presentations

There are many possible workshops, classes, and presentations. They can be one-day events or a series. If you would like others, please ask.

Learning the Arts, Crafts, and Heritage of the Bayou

  • Fait à la main/Made By Hand -- Classes to learn arts and crafts, such as duck carving, basket weaving using local resources
  • Performing the Traditions -- Classes to learn traditions such as singing songs in French
  • Presentations about the traditions and culture of coastal communities by community scholars and other researchers

Exploring Your Memories and Sense of Place

  • People and Place: Writing on the Bayou I -- This workshop will have two half-day sessions. The first features a concentrated study of identity-centered, place-based, nonfiction writing, from national and regional writers. Participants will brainstorm ideas for their own writings or discuss ongoing projects. The second session is comprised of a hands-on writing workshop in which people bring in their own memoir and nonfiction writing set in Coastal Louisiana. Attendees will receive guidance and individual feedback on their writing.
  • People and Place: Writing on the Bayou II -- This workshop will introduce participants to environmental or ecological writing, using writing to understand the land and its features. Participants will brainstorm their own projects and then return for a second session, which will be a hands-on writing workshop in which people bring in their writings. Attendees will receive guidance and individual feedback on their writing.
  • Make a Community Quilted Wall Hanging -- A quilter will work with community members to create a community quilted wall hanging with iconic images of your community like the one created for the Baton Rouge Traditions project.
  • Writing poetry in French or English about sense of place, local or family traditions, or land loss

Documenting Traditions and Oral History

  • What can be documented
  • How to collect local stories and oral histories
  • How to interview tradition bearers
  • Documentary photograph and videography
  • Saving family or community photos
  • Document a tradition or oral history with mentorship

Exploring the Bayou Region

  • Mapping My Bayou Tour -- In a series of gatherings, people in the region will participate in small focus groups to help design nonprofit tours of the region. Facilitators will explain what is or isn't possible on a tour of this type and introduce people to similar tours in the nation. Participants will map out their ideal tour and present their stops on the way. Each focus group will last approximately an hour and a half.
  • Biking the Bayou -- The Nicholls State University Cycling Club will host a gathering for the public to propose ideas for a biking tour of the Bayou Region. This gathering would last approximately two hours.

Request a Workshop, Class, or Presentation

If you would be interested in attending or hosting a workshop, class, or presentation, we want to know. Contact:

Jonathan Foret
South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, Houma


Maida Owens
Louisiana Folklife Program, Baton Rouge, 225-342-8178

Existing Documentation

Find essays on the Folklife in Louisiana website and other sources that address traditions in Louisiana's coastal communities here

Collaborators and Funders

This project is a collaboration between Louisiana Folklore Society, the Louisiana Division of the Arts Folklife Program, the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, Nicholls State University Center for Bayou Studies, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Center for Louisiana Studies, and Bayou Regional Arts Council.

The collaborative is funded with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.

©2019 Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism