Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha Indians
1. Entrance to Isle de Jean Charles
2. Dominick Dardar - August 28, 1909 - April 2, 2001. He was born and lived his entire life on Isle de Jean Charles. He was the eldest member of the Island.
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The Governing Body
The governing body of the Isle de Jean Charles Band is the Tribal Council and the Council of Elders. The Tribal Council is comprised of eleven council members, four of which are alternates. The Grand Council has five serving members.
- Albert P. Naquin
Vice-Chairperson - Wenceslaus A. Billiot Jr.
Representative to the Grand Council -Ernest Dardar
District A - Chris Brunet Alternate - Jeanne Billiot
District B - Roy Naquin Alternate - Mike Pitre
District C - Elie Hendon Alternate - Theresa Hendon
District D - Ray Hendon Alternate - Carlton Naquin
Council of Elders:
Chairman - Wenceslaus A. Billiot Sr.
Vice Chairman - Pierre A. Naquin
Deme M. Naquin Sr.
Isle de Jean Charles is a narrow ridge of land between Bayou Terrebonne and Bayou Pointe- aux-Chene in Terrebonne Parish. It is, and has always been, known as an Indian community. Every resident of this island is a member of the Biloxi-Chitimachas because of their Indian ancestry. The island is split down the middle because Bayou St. Jean Charles runs through the center of the island; there is a road on only one side. Today there is not enough land to raise any type of livestock or have gardens because of salt water encroachment.
This ridge was considered "uninhabitable swamp land" until the State of Louisiana decided to make sales to private individuals in 1876. It may have been used for trapping and a fishing base before that but no records of permanent residents, whose descendants can be traced to this day, have been found. The 1880 Terrebonne Parish Census listed the first land buyers as residents and included just four families, that of Jean Baptise Narcisse Naquin, Antoine Livaudais Dardar, Marcelin Duchils Naquin, and Walker Lovell, all related by marriage.
One of the first buyers was Jean Baptiste Narcisse Naquin on 22 May 1876 for 80 acres and on 10 June 1876 for 40 acres, land on the island and on the upper ridge. Narcisse operated a store on the upper ridge where he also lived, but was in walking distance from the island. Marcellin Duchils Naquin, brother of Narcisse, bought a total of 120 acres of land in two purchases, on 22 May 1876. Walker Lovell, brother-in-law of Narcisse and Marcellin, bought a total of 80 acres in 1876, but on 1 Feb. 1882 he sold ¾ of an arpent to Marcellin Naquin. Later, on 6 Jan. 1900, he sold the balance of his land to Mary Naquin and Drozin Dardar.
There is a small graveyard on the island, but the date of its beginning is not known. It is no longer used for burials but it is believed there are between 50 and 75 people buried there. No records were kept and only a handful of markers are in place, all are homemade and many are broken; only two were found that are legible - that of Felicite Isida "Zelda" Billiot who died 20 Jan. 1926 (wife of Joseph Andre Chaisson, and daughter of Jean Charles Billiot and Manette Lucie Renaud), and Marie Lousie "Elodia" Dardar who died between 1897 and 1900 (wife of Jean Victor Naquin, daughter of Charles Aurelien Dardar Jr. and Marguerite Olynda Billiot). Based on census and baptism records of their children, "Zelda" and Andre were married around 1852. From 1860 to 1880 they were listed on census records near what was then called "Lockport" - the Pointe Barre of today. This was the post office address and not necessarily the place of residence.
By the census of 1910 the area was officially called "Isle á Jean Charles" and had grown to sixteen families, all descendants of the first four families; a total of 77 people. The occupations of the men were fishermen, oystermen, or trappers.
Isle de Jean Charles is the only community of the three in the confederation which has had designated Chiefs from historic time of settlement. The Chief had the grocery store, was responsible for the mails, arbitrated disputes, represented the people of the island with outsiders, and gathered the residents for group work in the community. Each Chief named his successor, being the person he thought best qualified to fulfill the duties; the position was not inherited by birth nor has it ever been challenged by persons of the community.
Tradition has it that Jean Marie Naquin (born 1804 and died before 1850) son of Jean Charles Naquin and Pauline Verdin (daughter of Alexandre Verdin and Marie Gregoire) went to the island after they married around 1828. The 1850 census listed the children of Jean Marie Naquin and Pauline Verdin living with Marie Billiot at Pointe-aux-Chene. Their children did settle on the island and the youngest, Jean Baptiste Narcisse Naquin, born in 1841 and died after 1910, was said to be the first Chief of the Indians on Isle de Jean Charles. Although no time period was given for this appointment, one would assume he was at least of middle age, which would be around the 1880's.
Jean Baptiste Narcisse Naquin passed the Chieftainship to his son, Jean Victor Naquin, before his death. Jean Victor Naquin was born in 1869 and died at the age of 86 on Isle de Jean Charles in 1956, buried in Holy Rosary Cemetery, Houma LA.
Before his death, Victor passed the Chieftainship to his nephew, Antoine Martin Naquin (son of Clement Naquin and Rosemee Naquin), who was also commissioned by Sheriff Prejean to keep law and order. Antoine was born 31 January 1896 and died at the age of 82 on 24 April 1978, buried in Bisland Cemetery at Bourg, LA.
Deme Naquin was Antoine’s assistant and apprentice and became Chief upon appointment by Antoine. Deme is the son of Adam Naquin and Valerine Bourg and husband of Wilma Naquin. Deme was appointed as Representative to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the State of Louisiana by Governor Edwin Edwards. Upon his retirement because of health problems, in 1997 he appointed his brother, Albert Paul Naquin, the present Chief.
Albert is married to Patsy Naquin and they have two children and three grandchildren. He is employed by the Department of Interior.
The houses had dome shaped roofs covered with palmetto. A smoke hole was left in the very center and could be closed in rainy weather. The walls were covered with a mud and moss mixture (bousillage) about six inches thick, then covered on the outside with palmetto. "Dirt" floors (clay which after drying was as hard as concrete) were made higher than the ground level to keep out moisture. Floor mats were made of palmetto, and some say they were also used for sleeping. The houses were called "mud houses" and were in use up to the early 1900's. Constant repairs were needed for their upkeep. They provided little protection in hurricanes and none during flooding. Some of the elders now living remember those early houses and said when the mud and moss mixture dried it was as white as if painted.
The children went by pirogue to school at Pointe-aux-Chene, two to three children in a pirogue, traveling four miles each way by paddle or push pole in the 1930's. The school was run by the Live Oak Baptist Church and funded by donations of the Baptists in Atlanta, GA, and in Terrebonne Parish. Mr. Wenceslaus Billiot was one of those students and said the school went up to the seventh or eight grade. He was taught in English by Burton De Ville, whose son also attended the school with the Indian children. When the Superintendent of Education for Terrebonne Parish (Henry Louis Bourgeois) visited the school and saw the white child among the Indians he refused to allow the boy to continue at that school and forced him to attend the white public school. Later, the Baptist Mission built a church on the island in the 1940's and it was used as a one-room school for the Indian children, called on a map (dated 1956) "Mission School."
Johnny Ledet of Pointe-aux-Chene taught Adult Indian Education around 1938 and was the last adult education teacher hired with federal funds in the 1930's.
Miss Jeanette LeBoeuf, of Montegut, taught on the island in the 1940's, having nineteen students in seven grades. She was transported in Antoine Naquin’s pirogue every morning and afternoon to and from the end of the road.
In 1950 Whitney Boudreaux taught school on the island in the little "green school house" (it was actually brown), built by the Baptist Church.
Then Miss Laise Ledet taught elementary grades on the island in addition to adult education classes.
After a public school was built on lower Pointe-aux-Chene for Indian children, the students from the island began going by boat to attend that school in 1952. That school went to the eighth grade. Beyond that grade level, any child wanting to continue his education had to go to Daigleville Indian High School in Houma, LA, begun in 1959 and had its first graduating class in 1962. This was the first Indian high school in the state, a trip of about 25 miles one way from Isle de Jean Charles and Pointe-aux-Chene. A few of the high school students went to St. Joseph Catholic High School in Chauvin, LA, during the early 1960's. When the public schools were integrated in 1967, Indians were finally allowed to attend public schools with the other races.
During the Chieftainship of Antoine Naquin the grocery store had a room built on one side that served as a dance hall on Saturday nights, church on Sunday, community meeting place, and school during week days. That school went to the seventh grade. When the school closed the children went to school in Pointe-aux-Chene by boat.
Isolation and transportation
Until the "Island Road" was built in 1953, the only sure method of transportation to and from the island was by boat. Previously there had been a wagon path along a narrow ridge going to Point Farm and Bayou Terrebonne but it was impassable at times of high water, which came in when the wind blew from the south or southeast. In 1953 a highway was built, but it also became impassable when the wind shifted and flooded the road. During times of emergency, vehicles and help could not reach the island residents, no matter what the emergency. There is a fire station on the island and one person certified to do CPR. Residents had been trying for a number of years to have the road built higher. During times when the road was flooded, school children had to be transported to Pointe-aux-Chene by boat or remain absent from school until the school bus could again travel the road.
Recently their efforts were rewarded with help from the parish and Reggie Dupre, their State Representative, and the road was elevated.
One of their dire needs is a hurricane protection levee built on the south side of the island by the U. S. Corps of Engineers. The most recent correspondence was the island was being left out of the plans.
The Indian population on Isle de Jean Charles today is approximately 230 persons in 60 homes. The total count of the first four families was 33 persons in 4 homes.
The island community’s determination and perseverance are common traits of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw people and have aided them in their survival in the past and will undoubtedly continue to do so in their future.
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