In a story that pre-dates America, the multi-cultural Creoles of Cane River, Louisiana see themselves as somewhere between black and white. The Spirit of a Culture: Cane River Creoles recounts the Cane River Creole identity struggle from colonial French Louisiana to today’s Creole led multicultural renaissance – against the notion of race as a deciding feature of a population.
The documentary was produced by Emmy-winning filmmaker Bill Rodman (Atchafalaya Swamp Revisited) and Executive Producer Flo R. Ulmer in association with Louisiana Public Broadcasting.
In order to understand the culture of the Creole community of Cane River, you have to understand their development as a people. This program takes viewers through the historical events that helped shaped them into who they are today. One of the most important facts that provides insight about the Cane River Creoles is that their ancestors, who were French, Spanish, African and Indian, always held onto the fact that they were citizens of France, long after the sale of the Louisiana Territory to America in 1803.
With guidance from the Louisiana Creole Heritage Center at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Rodman and Ulmer were able to secure the help of four scholars to help guide the project. Those scholars were Dr. Pete Gregory, Dr. Dayna Bowker Lee, Dr. Susan Dollar and Dr. Kathleen Byrd. Other advice came from the Cane River National Heritage Area.
“As producers, we felt that members from the Cane River Creole community should tell their own story,” Ulmer said. “Five Cane River Creoles were chosen to explain the nuances of their culture and to relate where their future lies. Though their words you begin to understand why they do not consider themselves black or African-American, even though they have color, but rather Creole.”
Cane River Creoles who participated included Terrel Delphin; Chairperson of the Advisory Council for the Louisiana Creole Heritage Center; author John Sarpy, Louis Metoyer, Cane River California Creole and publisher of Bayou Talk, Lair LaCour, whose MaMan dolls were designated by the state as the Bi-Centennial Doll, and Tracey Colson-Fontenot, a mother of four young Creole boys.
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Credit: New-York Historical Society - "Great Egret," painted in Louisiana 1821