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The Houma Tribe of Indians, or more properly, The United Houma Nation, are native to the Louisiana parishes of East and West Feliciana, and Pointe Coupee, about 100 miles (160 km) north of the town of Houma named for them, west of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
The Houma Tribe has not yet been federally recognized and the Houma Tribe has been awaiting a response from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, for over 20 years.---------The Houma Tribe's first historically verifiable location was opposite the Red River on the east side of Mississippi Rivers by the French explorer La Salle in 1682. The Houma are said to descend from the Chakchiuma, and some even think their name is a corruption of the former.Because their war emblem is the saktce-ho’ma, or Red Crawfish, anthropologist John R. Swanton has speculated that the Houma are an offshoot of the Yazoo River region’s Chakchiuma tribe, whose name is a corruption of saktce-ho’ma.
Individuals in the tribe maintained contact with other Choctaw communities even after settling in lower Lafourche-Terrebonne. It is not certain exactly how the Houma came to settle near the mouth of the Red River, formerly the River of the Houma. We only know that the French explorers found them at the site of present-day Angola, Louisiana, unaware that their lands would soon be part of the French colony of Louisiana.---------In 1907, Swanton collected a vocabulary from an elderly woman which he labelled 'Houma'. The language in this vocabulary is very similar to standard Choctaw. This has led some linguists to conclude that the Houma spoke a Western Muskogean language (akin to Choctaw or Chickasaw) although it has also been suggested that the data in Swanton's vocabulary is in fact Mobilian Jargon. Some unidentified words may be from other languages spoken on the Mississippi. The Tunica called Mobilian Jargon húma ʔúlu "Houma's language".--------Napoleon grew tired of the troublesome colony and agreed to sell it to the United States, which would double the size of the new republic. On April 30, 1803, the two nations signed a treaty making Louisiana a territory of the United States. With respect to native inhabitants, article six of the Louisiana Purchase Treaty states
The United States promise to execute such treaties and articles as may have been agreed between Spain and the tribes and nations of Indians, until, by mutual consent of the United States and the said tribes of nations, other suitable articles shall have been agreed upon.
Although the United States signed this treaty, they never upheld this policy. Dr. John Sibley was appointed by President Thomas Jefferson as Indian agent for the region. He showed no desire to visit any villages in the swamps of southern Louisiana. This left the tribe without any official representation in the Federal government, a need that has not been filled to this day.
In 1885, the Houma lost maybe their greatest leader, Rosalie Courteau. Through her leadership and courage, the Houma Tribe survived a very turbulent period in their history and her name has carried ever since high regard among her people.---------While the modern world slowly began to edge its way into south Louisiana, the Houma Tribe remained isolated in their bayou settlements. The population of the Houma Tribe at this time was divided among six settlements. Travel between settlements was made by pirogues, and not automobiles, as roads did not connect to the Houma settlements until the 1940s. By the end of the 19th century, the Houma language had merged with the French language of the colony. The Houma-French language that the Houma people speak today is a mix between the French spoken by early explorers and Houma words, such as shaui (“raccoon”). Yet, Houma-French language is still French language, because anybody who speak French from Canada, France, Rwanda or Louisiana understand each others. They are little difference in vocabulary, Ex: Chevrette to say crevette (shrimp). The accent of the Houma Nation French-speaker is not more different than the difference between an American English-speaker and an English-speaker from England; every linguistic group develop many different accents; the Houma Nation is no different.
In 1907, John R. Swanton, an anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution, visited the Houma.
The Houma of today continue to have a hunter-gatherer type economy. Through small gardens and the primary food source still the bayous and swamps around their homes. It was not until 1964 after the Civil Rights Act was passed that Houma children were allowed to attend public schools. Before this time Houma children only attended missionary schools.-------------One of the most important issues of the Houma people is the still unresolved matter of their federal recognition.
The Houma Tribe has been in the federal recognition process since 1983 when it filed its petition with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In the late 1990s, the Bureau returned a false positive result to the tribe and requested more documentation. Currently the Houma Tribe waits for their application to be reviewed again for final determination.---------As many of Tribal communities are in coastal areas and depend on the swamps and bayous as a source of food and economic resource, the ongoing coastal erosion is the other main problem that the Houma Tribe faces. This coastal erosion is mainly due to oil companies placing piping under the ground and not properly covering it afterwards, as well as salt water intrusion caused by navigation canals dug by those same oil companies.
Currently the community of Isle de Jean Charles is eroding away and within the next fifteen years the island will completely disappear if nothing is done. The Houma Tribe is currently looking for land to buy in the area so that it could move the community off the island and relocate them together. Coastal erosion is also affecting the tribal fisherman with saltwater intrusion taking over many of the old fishing holes.