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A Kingdom of Water

Adaptation and Survival in the Houma Nation

J. Daniel d'Oney

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 04/2020
Pages: 228
Subject: Social Science
eBook ISBN: 9781496220066


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.  


J. Daniel d'Oney is an associate professor of Native American history and cultures at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and the director of its oral history collection.  


"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