Francois Bernard - Choctaw Village

Alfred Boisseau - Louisiana Indians Walking Along a Bayou

Cultural Department

The Jena Band of Choctaw Cultural Department specializes in the archival of current and historical information, media and artifacts. Data of all kinds are actively recorded and preserved in an attempt to keep Choctaw Culture intact.

Land preservation efforts are also constantly monitored and acted upon. These roles are pivotal in keeping Choctaw lands undisturbed by outside sources.

The Cultural Department is also expanding to offer a glimpse into the archive and provide members an opportunity to dive into their own culture and history with a library and digital archive.

The earliest recorded notice of the Choctaw Indians is believed to be about 1540...

...in the area of southern Mississippi and in the early 1700s near present-day Mobile, AL, Biloxi, MS, and in New Orleans, LA. Inland from these settlements, there was a large Tribe of Muskogean-speaking people occupying about 60 towns on the streams that formed the headwaters of the Pascagoula and Pearl Rivers.

After the relinquishment of the Louisiana Colony by France, members of the Tribe began to move across the Mississippi River. By the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in September of 1830, the main body of the Choctaw ceded all their land east of the Mississippi River. The Choctaw began to migrate even further away from their original territory. One band settled in a sizable village near present-day Enterprise, LA and other groups migrated to the pine-covered hills of what was then Catahoula Parish in Louisiana. Eventually, the Choctaw located between present-day Monroe and Natchitoches, Louisiana, joined the group in Catahoula Parish. Principal settlements were established on Trout Creek in LaSalle Parish and Bear Creek in Grant Parish.

In 1910 it was reported that there were only 40 Choctaws located in LaSalle and Catahoula Parishes. The Indian community had very little to do with outsiders and continued their Indian customs and ways. The local store account books showed that the Indians paid for their goods by skinning and tanning hides as well as day laborers and household help. The Choctaw community maintained a very distinct, social institution with activities that included marriages, burials, and the maintenance of a Tribal cemetery. Choctaw children were not allowed to attend school with white children. Indian children did not attend school for many years.

In 1932, a small school building called The Penick Indian School was constructed and opened in Eden, Louisiana where twenty students attended the all-Indian school. When funding for the school was no longer available, it closed. However, one year later the Department of Indian Affairs provided funding and the school was reopened. During this time the Office of Indian Affairs proposed moving the Choctaws who were willing to Federal Trust land in Mississippi. Many were willing to move but the beginning of World War II interrupted that consideration and brought about the final closure of the Penick Indian School and the Jena Choctaw Indians did not attend school again until 1943.

The year after the end of World War II, Indian children were allowed to attend public schools. The last traditional Chief died in 1968 and in 1974 the first Tribal election of Tribal Chief was held. Subsequently, the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians was officially recognized by the state of Louisiana as an Indian Tribe. The Jena Band of Choctaw Indians received federal recognition through the federal acknowledgment process in 1995. Tribal membership now totals 327. The Tribe as a sovereign government strives to improve the well-being of its Tribal members and those of future generations.