Exhibit #4 Lingering Reminders of the Cane River Sharecropping Era.
The Upper Cane River Creole community lies deep in the heart of cotton county in rural southern Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. Connections to the landscape, deep-seated religious values and kinship ties played an important role in the development of the community. Cane River Creoles are a melange of people from various racial ancestries and cultures, the majority of whom descended from the original colonial French settlers. The merger of customs and traditions from their different ethnic backgrounds fashioned the Cane River people into a unique cultural community. They spoke a creolized French language, which helped to isolate and to separate their rural community from their Anglo-American neighbors. Over the last seventy-five years, Cane River Creoles have witnessed a mass exodus from their ancestral lands in search of economic prosperity, as well as, urban American encroachment into their communities, and the acculturation of many Creoles into other religious and ethnic groups. As a result, the Creole people are in peril of losing their language, culture, and connection to their traditional landscape.
In an effort to preserve Creole customs, the Creole Heritage Center at Northwestern State University in Louisiana is diligently and persistantly working to document Creole folkways, record remaining Creole languages, and safeguard Creole traditions for future generations.
In the Cane River Creole community, the sharecropping system was also a large part of their way of life. The Great Depression left few people in the United States with sufficient work to allow a family other than a meager existence. However, unlike in much of the country, sharecropping was a communal effort for many Creoles. World War II wrenched the country from economic crisis and launched it into a era of technology. Consequently, Creoles left the Cane River community and sought out economic prosperity in the large, industrialized cities. The diaspora resulted in Creole communities throughout the United States. Centered around Catholic Churches, these Creoles maintained kinship ties and connections to the Cane River area. Exposed to many different groups, most of the younger generation of Creoles assimilated into different cultures. Therefore, younger Creoles does not always understand the connections they have with the Cane River region. As the older generation reach retirement age, many are returning home to the Cane River area, leaving behind the younger generation with stories of Cane River and a cultural gap. The loss has created an awareness for the preservation of customs and the recovery of the Creole language which are major concerns of the Cane River Creole people and Creoles around the nation.