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Chitimacha Indian River Cane Evaluation

Since 2001, the Golden Meadow Plant Materials Center (PMC), Galliano, Louisiana, has been working with tribal representatives on propagation, establishment, culture and harvest of river cane (Arundinaria gigantea), also known as wild cane, giant cane and giant bamboo. The conservation problem in this case is that the Chitimacha’s craft is threatened by a shortage of river cane populations. Additionally, there were no river cane populations actually growing on the reservation, which has diminished to ¼ of its established area in the mid-1800s.

: Picture of Sophie Kilchrist, Juanita Clements, Patra Ghergich and Kim Walden holding river caneThe conservation and preservation of an ancient cultural tradition motivated the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana in their request for PMC assistance. They are the oldest recognized and indigenous tribe in Louisiana. They have used river cane to construct woven baskets and mats since the era of the Mississippi mound-building culture, a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages.

The PMC has continued to work with the Chitimacha Tribe to increase river cane populations; notable to new expanding tribal land areas. Continuing efforts in order to take the guesswork out of the “where, when and how” will be put forth by the PMC in years to come to insure the tribe will have adequate supplies of river cane for future generations to come.

This year the PMC staff with the help of St. Mary Soil & Water Conservation District, Farm Service Agency and members of the Tribe were able to excavate approximately 225 individual river cane shoots that were then transplanted in suitable areas on the reservation. Six to eight individual shoots of river cane were placed in each hole to increase the chances of survival for the area. They were placed in partial shaded areas on elevated dikes.

Previous years plantings revealed the river cane Picture of rivercane plantingperformed best in these areas as opposed to lower lying areas with regards to soil type. Annual increasing of river cane on the reservation should provide ample supply of river cane in order for the tribe to carry out and continue its historic cultural basket weaving tradition. Each year the PMC lends its tools, labor and technical expertise to make this event a success.

Chitimacha Tribe River Cane Planting Guide (PDF; 1.6 MB)