Louisiana Voices Educator's Guide  
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Study Guide Summary  
Outline of the Study Guide  
Study Unit I Defining Terms  
Study Unit II Fieldwork Basics  
Study Unit III Discovering the Obvious: Our Lives as "The Folk"  
Study Unit IV The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor  
Study Unit V Oral Traditions--Swapping Stories  
Study Unit VI Louisiana's Musical Landscape  
Study Unit VII Material Culture-The Stuff of Life  
Study Unit VIII The Worlds of Work and Play  
Study Unit IX The Seasonal Round and Life Cycles  
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Unit IV Outline

Introduction - The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor

Lesson 1: Louisiana's Major Folk Regions

Lesson 2 Geography, Ecology, and Folklife

Lesson 3 Sense of Place

Unit IV Resources






Unit IV
The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor

To some people [Pointe Noire] extends from Plaquemine Brulée woods to Ray McGee's. . . . As you cross the road you're into Pointe Noire. Before the road, you're in Robert's Cove. Across the road, you cross Bayou Plaquemine Brulée there, see? And then you're in Pointe Noire.

--Pierre Daigle, Acadia Parish

Unit Introduction

What makes Louisiana special? Why do people around the world know something about Louisiana's traditional culture? What do students know about their region of the state? How would an outsider view your region? What can Louisiana neighbors learn from each other?

Louisiana's uniquely rich geography, history, and folklife provide several ways not only to approach the study of the state, but to integrate this study across disciplines. Folklife, geography, ecology, history, economics, literature, and verbal arts are all entwined in defining "regionality"--what makes a place special. "Sense of place" may be examined through various lenses, or cultural perspectives, listed in the box below. Each lesson in this unit asks students to return to this list and flesh out these perspectives. Students can use the Cultural Perspectives handout.

Cultural Perspectives on Place and Event

Language and dialect (What languages or dialects are spoken at the event or in the place?)

Foodways (What events take place in which food or food preparation is important? What are the places where local produce is sold, the local food hang-out, a locally owned restaurant?)

Music and dance (Where do people go to hear music or go dancing? What events in everyday life or special events include music or dance? Think, for example, about lullabies, campfires, playground songs, school fight songs, weddings, birthdays.)

Geography, ecology, and environment (Where is the place located? What is the population? Climate? What are some of the important landforms like rivers, ponds, swamps, springs? What plants and animals are found in the area? What are the important man-made features in the place, such as roads, bridges, dams, canals, reservoirs, malls? How do these affect the plants and animals?)

Landscape and land use (Where are the parks, the playgrounds, the farms, businesses, industries, neighborhoods, and towns?)

Soundscape (What does the place or event sound like? Are they natural sounds or human-made sounds?)

Religions (What religions are practiced? Where are religious activities held? What events are associated with places of worship or religious beliefs? What are the places in the community where religious activity occurs?)

Crafts, decorative arts, and material culture (Fish traps, poles, nets, decoys? Objects related to hunting such as traps, bird calls, blinds? Do you know any woodcarvers or people who are active in textile arts such as crochet, embroidery, knitting, or quilting? Are there any blacksmiths in your area? How are local buildings constructed and decorated: ironwork, brickwork, terra cotta, murals, etc.? How are gravestones decorated in local cemeteries? How are crafts used within events or how do they contribute to a distinctive sense of place? How are they learned and the skills passed on? Are there places where material culture is particularly evident?)

Customs, celebrations, and festivals (What are the major events? Is there a festival, homecoming or reunion, fair, pageant, parade, or procession? What about events associated with the cycle of life such as birth, coming of age, marriage, death? What are the places where these events traditionally occur?)

Seasonal Round (What events always occur at a particular season of the year? Where do these activities occur?)

Oral narrative genres (Are there jokes, stories, tall tales, legends, riddles, proverbs, folktales, and anecdotes? Are there events or place where you can hear these narratives? Are there narratives about local places or events? What about stories of important events in local history, or how national events affected people in the community?)

Family names and formal and informal place names (How did places in the area get their names?)

Ethnic and other folk groups (Who takes part in the event? Whose place is it?)

Occupations and occupational folklife (What are the work-related skills: the knowledge, customs, traditions, stories, jokes, music, and lore of different jobs or occupations?)

Settlement history and pattern(Who founded or discovered or named the place? Who started the event? Where did some current ethnic groups in town come from? Where did they/do they live? What brought them here? What did/do they do for a living?)

Adapted with permission from FolkWriting, Diane Howard and Laurie Sommers et al., Valdosta State University, 2002, http://www.valdosta.edu/folkwriting/.

This unit offers ways to integrate folklife and technology into Louisiana studies and to consider regionality in literature, history, and social studies. Choose some or all of the cultural perspectives from the list above that mesh with your curriculum and pique your students' interest. For example, geography or environment may be more relevant to your curriculum than occupations or customs. Most importantly, this unit will alert students to a sense of place in their own communities and allow them to compare their region with other regions of the state.

Even the folklife of a relatively homogeneous region is in a constant state of change. In a state as diverse on as many levels as Louisiana, this process creates very complex cultural assimilations and exchanges that over the generations have produced potent creolizations that continue to influence traditional and popular culture in the United States and beyond. Folklore scholars use the term "creolization" to describe the dynamic cultural mix arising from the remarkable diversity of Louisiana's people, landscape, and history. For over 300 years Louisiana folklife has blended the ways of many different cultural groups while remaining distinctive and dynamic. Similarly, each region, parish, and community has its own unique culture.

Culture is not static but alive and dynamic. Cultural changes are constant. New groups arrive and adapt to regional culture by assimilating in some ways (learning English or wearing baggy jeans, for example), privately maintaining some traditions to maintain heritage and help them cope with cultural change (celebrating Vietnamese New Year or making tamales at Christmas), and sharing some of their traditions (public Chinese dragon dances or the popularity of foods such as Middle Eastern hummos or Latino salsa). At the same time, regional culture continues to evolve (swamp pop or rockabilly, for example) and adapt by developing new traditions (pond crawfishing boats), creating variations on old traditions, or embracing influences from other areas. Today new groups of people continue to immigrate to Louisiana, bringing their own traditions, of course. Some are not immigrants but refugees who have had to flee their home countries because of political upheaval. Refugee resettlement is complicated by the trauma many refugees have experienced, which overlays their culture shock at settling in a new place where they may not speak the language.

Some of the traditions that new residents bring will be lost, some will linger, and some will blend with traditions of Louisiana and the United States to create new emerging traditions, which illustrate not only the process of cultural assimilation but innovations within a folk group. Examples of emerging traditions include pan-Indian pow wows, which bring together Native Americans of many tribal groups, and roadside shrines commemorating accidental deaths (see Unit IX Part 2 Lesson 3).

This unit examines three major folk regions of the state: North Louisiana, South Louisiana, and New Orleans. Eighth graders may choose to look at regions in more depth and study the similarities and differences among nine folk sub-regions: the Upper Mississippi Delta, North Central Louisiana Hill Country, Red River Valley, Neutral Strip, Western Acadiana, Eastern Acadiana, Lower Mississippi River Road, Florida Parishes, and Greater New Orleans.

You and your students will discover a lot about diversity by using the wide array of unit resources, including videos on cultural groups from the Irish in New Orleans to the Chitimacha Indians, a huge online photo collection, and lots of essays that hold many surprises. By researching and conducting fieldwork, students can learn how Native Americans make baskets, where German POW camps were built during World War II, how their peers in another part of the state are both alike and different from themselves. Being a good Louisiana neighbor means getting to know each other!


Unit IV Resources

Unit IV Outline


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