A Kingdom of Water is a study of how the United Houma Nation in Louisiana successfully navigated a changing series of political and social landscapes under French, Spanish, British, and American imperial control between 1699 and 2005. After 1699 the Houma assimilated the French into their preexisting social and economic networks and played a vital role in the early history of Louisiana. After 1763 and Gallic retreat, both the British and Spanish laid claim to tribal homelands, and the Houma cleverly played one empire against the other.
In the early 1700s the Houma began a series of adaptive relocations, and just before the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 the nation began their last migration, a journey down Bayou Lafourche. In the early 1800s, as settlers pushed the nation farther down bayous and into the marshes of southeastern Louisiana, the Houma quickly adapted to their new physical environment. After the Civil War and consequent restructuring of class systems, the Houma found themselves caught in a three-tiered system of segregation. Realizing that education was one way to retain lands constantly under assault from trappers and oil companies, the Houma began their first attempt to integrate Terrebonne Parish schools in the early twentieth century, though their situation was not resolved until five decades later. In the early twenty-first century, the tribe is still fighting for federal recognition.
List of Illustrations
Introduction: To Cast a Wide Net
1. “He and I Shall Be but One”: The Forging of Houma and French Alliances
2. “We Should Be Obligated to Destroy Them”: Houma Remove to Bayou St. John and Ascension
3. In the Shelter of a Duck’s Nesting Place: Shifting Power and Politics along the Mississippi
4. A Kingdom of Water: Adaptation and Erasure in Bayou Country
5. “So-Called Indians”: The Houma Quest for Education
6. A Paper Genocide: The Fight for Recognition
Conclusion: The Sea of Galilee
“Based on comprehensive research and written in a highly accessible manner, this much-needed study of the Houma Indians will contribute markedly to scholarship on Native Americans in the South. D’Oney’s explanation of Houma resilience and persistence adds plenty to our knowledge of the place and the people. D’Oney has produced a work that many other historians will find useful in their own scholarship as well as in their classrooms.”—Daniel Usner, author of American Indians in the Lower Mississippi Valley: Social and Economic Histories