Tunica-Biloxi Tribe to Distribute Sustaining Meals to Tribal Elders

The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana is shipping healthy meals to their most vulnerable in Louisiana, Texas, Illinois and across nation

MARSKVILLE, LA – (April 16, 2020) – Today, the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana and its members are proud to announce that tribal elders across the county will be receiving packages of healthy meals which will sustain them for the next 4-5 weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The shipments are designed to assure the Tribe’s elders remain safe and fed no matter where they are located. As the elder population is one of the most vulnerable to the virus, the Tribal Council felt it was important to facilitate an easy meal distribution to its citizens living away from the Tribe’s reservation, many of them without access to federal services or in areas under curfew which restrict their access to grocery stores nearby. 

“We must continue to do all that we can to support our elders and keep them healthy and safe,” said Tunica-Biloxi Vice Chairman Marshall Ray Sampson, Sr. “As a Tribe, we honor our elders in all that we do. They are our forbearers who have paved the way for our continued success as a people. I am grateful to the Tribal Council for working together with key staff members to make this feeding effort so effective so quickly.”

The 200+ meals are being sent out via FedEx as one-time shipments of 16 pre-packaged meals to all tribal elders in tribal areas in Marksville, LA; Chicago, IL; and Houston, TX. Additionally, some meals were also shipped to elder tribal members living as far as California, Michigan and Idaho as well as some additional areas throughout the nation. 

The meals, which have been prepared fresh and frozen, are friendly to those with diabetes and other health considerations. Each includes a starch, vegetable and a protein. Several meal options include Creole Blackened Chicken, Meatloaf, Chicken Piccata, BBQ Turkey Burgers, Farmhouse Pork Tenderloin, Bean Chili and breakfast options as well. 

“Many of our elders have been unable to leave their homes on the reservation and across the country. We must do everything we can to ensure that we are caring for those in need, no matter where they currently reside,” said Council Member Jeremy Zahn, who introduced the program due to the nationwide impact of COVID-19. “We are committed to continuing this program, and the Tribe urges each of our members to contact us for assistance as we weather this pandemic.”

The measure to fund the meal distribution was passed with a unanimous vote of approval from the Tribal Council on April 2. The Tribal Council is continuing to work with Nikki McDonald, Director of the American Indian Center of Houston, and Tunica-Biloxi families throughout the country to assess continuing needs for its members. 

“This is an important effort to keep our treasured Tribal elders safe and healthy,” said McDonald. “We are grateful and proud that we could get this program coordinated so quickly. It will have a huge impact in bettering the lives of our members in this trying time.” 


About the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana: 

The Tunica-Biloxi people first appeared in the Mississippi Valley. In the late 1700s, they settled near Marksville, where they were skilled traders and entrepreneurs. Today, the Tribe has more than 1,200 members throughout the United States, primarily in Louisiana, Texas and Illinois. The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe received federal recognition in 1981 for its reservation within the boundaries of Louisiana. The tribe owns and operates the Paragon Casino Resort, the largest employer in Central Louisiana. Through its compact, negotiated by the late Tribal Chairman Earl J. Barbry Sr. and the State of Louisiana, the Tribe has assisted local governments in the area with its quarterly distribution of funds, totaling more than $40 million over two decades. For more information about the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, visit www.tunica.org and “like” us on Facebook

Three Tribal Members Receive Scholarships to Attend the 2020 Institute on Collaborative Language Research

Congratulations to Juston Broussard, Teyanna Pierite Simon, and Ryan Lopez for receiving scholarships to attend the 2020 Institute on Collaborative Language Research (CoLang 2020) at the University of Montana. The scholarships cover tuition, meals, housing and travel costs for the 2-week institute.

CoLang is an international institute for language activists, teachers, linguists and students from language communities and academia to obtain hands-on skills in language documentation and revitalization as practiced in collaborative contexts as well as in technology and basic linguistics in community-based research contexts. The Institute creates multi-dimensional networks among community language workers, teachers, researchers, and students. CoLang 2020 will be hosted by the University of Montana in collaboration with Chief Dull Knife College.

Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana To Host Sixth Annual Stickball Clinic and Exhibition

The Tunica-Biloxi Language & Culture Revitalization Program (LCRP) will host its sixth Annual Stickball Clinic & Exhibition, for children ages 11-16, as a way of preserving the ancient sport of Stickball. The event will take place on Saturday, Feb. 8, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Chief Joseph A. Pierite Pow Wow Grounds on the Tunica-Biloxi Reservation in Marksville.

Visiting players from the Alabama-Coushatta Stickball team of Livingston, TX will lead a clinic on basic skills, rules and safety of the game. Afterwards, the Alabama-Coushatta team will play an exhibition game and then support workshop participants in scrimmage games. Participants will be grouped by size for the scrimmage games.

Participation in the workshop is open to the public for a $10 fee. Tunica-Biloxi tribal children may register free of charge. Participants must pre-register by Monday, Feb. 3. The public is also welcome to view the exhibition free of charge.

Following the event, LCRP will host a cookout for participants. Space is limited. Parent(s) must accompany children to the clinic.

To view the event on Facebook, visit – https://www.facebook.com/events/494725191163004/. Please contact Jessica Barbry at jabarbry@tunica.org or (318) 240-6469 to register.


Native American stickball is considered to be one of the oldest team sports in North America. Stickball and lacrosse are similar to one another, the game of lacrosse being a tradition belonging to tribes of the Northern United States and Canada; stickball, on the other hand, continues in Oklahoma and parts of Southeastern U.S., where the game originated. Although the first recorded writing on the topic of stickball was not until the mid-17th century, there is evidence that the game had been developed and played hundreds of years before that.

Stickball was especially popular among Southeastern Indian tribes, including the Tunica-Biloxi. Stickball was played by tribal members regularly through the mid-20th century and gradually disappeared. Choctaw communities in Mississippi, Coushatta in Louisiana and the Alabama-Coushatta of Texas still have active stickball programs. Players and coaches from the Alabama-Coushatta community will lead a stickball clinic and exhibition on the Tunica-Biloxi reservation.

More than just a game, stickball builds body and spirit through exercise when played by all age groups—children, youth and adults. Many games have roots in ancestral tests of strength and sport that reinforced group cooperation and sharpened survival skills in often hostile environments. For warriors, the games helped maintain their readiness and combat skills between times of war. The gradual shift to a more sedentary lifestyle has highlighted the need to reawaken interest in physical activity, especially among Native youth. Promoting stickball could, once again, become an important part of improving the health and well-being of the Tunica-Biloxi people.

As the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe strives to preserve and revitalize traditional lifeways, it is necessary to provide community educational forums that will perpetuate knowledge and usage of these cultural elements. The Stickball Clinic & Exhibition provides an opportunity to explore traditions that are both unique and shared by neighboring indigenous communities.

Tunica-Biloxi Language & Culture in the Classroom at Tulane University

Saturday, January 25, 2020
9:00 am – 12:30 pm
Tunica-Biloxi Language & Culture in the Classroom

This collaborative workshop is designed for middle to high school Social Studies educators to enhance the teaching of the Tunica community while highlighting this group as part of a series of ancient civilizations currently taught at the K-12 level. This workshop is the first one in the series aimed at increasing and extending the current teaching of ancient civilizations in the Americas. The local focus on Louisiana indigenous people and culture will enable educators to create deeper connections when teaching about indigenous identity across the Americas such as the Maya, the Aztec and the Inca.

This workshop will introduce participants with little or no prior knowledge to ancient Tunica history, art, and language, with special focus on the role of food and native foods of this region. Language Instructors Donna Pierite and Elisabeth Pierite Mora of the Tunica-Biloxi Language & Culture Revitalization Program (LCRP) will share the history of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe beginning in 1541 up to the 1700s when the tribes reached the Avoyelles Prairie. Through story, song and dance they will share the Tunica language and Tunica-Biloxi culture. They will highlight the cultural educational initiatives of LCRP, and provide a list of online resources and samples of pedagogical materials for attendees.

Sponsored by the Middle American Research Institute, S.S. NOLA, and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies.

For more information, visit: https://stonecenter.tulane.edu/articles/detail/3048/Tunica-Biloxi-Language-Culture-in-the-Classroom.

Louisiana Rural Economic (LaRuE) Development Summit

The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana is partnering with the Southern University Law Center (SULC) and the Southern University College of Business University Center for Economic Development to co-host the first Louisiana Rural and Economic (LaRuE) Development Summit. The goal of the summit is to connect rural communities with local, state and national leaders as well as Native American Country and improving life in rural areas by helping future generations develop an entrepreneurial mindset while providing them the tools to succeed.

At the summit, the following topics will be discussed by panels of three to five people:

•             Workforce Development

•             Community Development in Rural America

•             5G Expansion/Broadband Opportunities

•             Healthcare Access in Rural Communities

•             Innovation and Entrepreneurship

•             New Marketing Opportunities in Agriculture

•             Financial Services

•             Small Business Opportunities

•             Creating and Improving Economic and Business Relationships with Tribal Governments

•             Business Development Opportunities with LA Tribes

Location: Paragon Casino Resort 711 Paragon Place, Marksville, LA 71351

Dates: Sunday, July 7 – Tuesday, July 9

Tickets: Click here to register

The summit will feature Governor John Bel Edwards at a special breakfast on July 9th. Local and nationally-recognized scholars and community leaders will share their expertise on the summit topics.

Tribal Council Announces Open Meetings

In order to remain transparent and available to all members, the Tribal Council will now keep some council meetings open. Tribe members can watch the meetings online here or on Facebook through Facebook live.

The Tribal Council open meeting schedule will be as follows:
All meetings will be held on Thursdays at 4:30 p.m., except the meeting on May 18th, at the Council’s Chamber in the Cultural and Educational Resources Center (CERC) at 150 Melacon Road, Marksville, LA.

May 9th & 23rd
May 18th (Pow Wow Day) at 9:00 a.m.
June 9th & 20th
July 18th
August 1st, 15th & 29th
September 12th & 26th 
October 10th & 25th
November 14th & 28th
December 12th 

Robert Anderson Retires from Tunica-Biloxi Tribe After Almost 25 Years

The Tunica-Biloxi Tribal Council and Tribal Gaming Commission would like everyone to join us in extending a deep appreciation for his service and acknowledgement on the retirement of Mr. Robert Anderson, Gaming Agent.  Mr. Anderson joined the Commission in May 1994, and has served the Commission and Tribe faithfully with a dedicated commitment to professionalism for almost 25 years.  He started his career with the Tribe as a Gaming Inspector, monitoring and regulating the daily affairs of the operation, at that time ‘Grand Casino Avoyelles’.  His commitment and professional approach to the effective regulation of the Tribe’s Gaming Operation earned him the recognition of his peers and colleagues alike.  As a result, the Commission determined that Mr. Anderson’s work ethic proved to be, and would be more useful to the Commission’s Investigative Division.  Subsequently, Mr. Anderson was promoted to the position of Gaming Agent, where he served in that capacity successfully until his retirement.

The Tribe and the Commission gratefully acknowledges his commitment, dedication and service; whereas, he provided for the effective regulation of tribal gaming with the highest level of honesty and integrity.  On February 25, 2019, Chairman Marshall Pierite, Vice-Chairman Marshall Ray Sampson, and Commissioners Rudy Wambsgans, Catherine Farbe and Bobby Pierite Sr, as well as, the entire Gaming Commission recognized him for his service, congratulated him, and extended our best and warmest wishes for his retirement.

Mr. Anderson will have plenty of time to create his wooden bowls now, and if anyone hasn’t seen his passion for this, needs to check out his Facebook page.  His work is beautiful and well worth obtaining one of the bowls.  We will miss him at the Commission and his “Good Morning’s”.  Thank you Robert and good luck in your future endeavors, it was a pleasure working with you.”

Thank you Robert!


The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe and Tribal Gaming Commission

Tunica-Biloxi Education Program Hosts Community Emergency Response Team Training

From February 11-13, the Tunica-Biloxi Education Program (TBEP) hosted a 3-day train-the-trainer course on how to develop a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

Tikahch to Gary Ragen, Homeland Security Program Coordinator from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, for facilitating the training. We are also grateful to Bill Bischof of FEMA for his support in coordinating this event and the Marksville Fire Department for participating.

The Tunica-Biloxi Language and Culture Revitalization Program Hosts the 3rd Annual Basketry Summit

See KALB coverage of the Basketry Summit. See more photos from the Summit here.

On Saturday, Oct. 27, the Tunica-Biloxi Language and Culture Revitalization Program hosted the 3rd Annual Basketry Summit. Weavers from regional American Indian communities demonstrated southeast basket traditions using long leaf pine needle, river cane and palmetto. The Summit was an informal forum allowing weavers to talk about their own technique and elements of their culture represented in the craft. The Summit also included a presentation from guest speaker Dustin Fuqua, Chief of Resource Management at Cane River Creole National Historical Park.

Heart of Louisiana: Tunica Language

View WVUE coverage about the Tunica language. Also covered by WAFB.

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – It’s been more than a half century since anyone could speak the language of Louisiana’s Tunica-Biloxi tribe. But thanks to the notes and recordings of early linguists, the tribal leaders are now teaching their language in hopes of bringing it back to life.

After a full day in school, these young members of the Tunica-Biloxi tribe in Marksville are trying to learn a second language. A language that was once spoken fluently by their great, great ancestors

“We come to work you know every day planning lessons creating new materials in order to teach and to share with our tribal community,” said Elizabeth Mora.

Mora and her mother are helping to guide the re-introduction of the Tunica language, which was helped by an old text and dictionary, created by a linguist in the 1930s and saved by a grandfather of Donna Pierite’s husband.

“We’ve been chosen to do this. It is a gift a spiritual gift that’s been passed on,” Pierite said.

Linguists, including a team from Tulane University, have helped to modernize the Tunica language. They use old Tunica words and imagine how those might have evolved throughout the centuries.

“So for example, pahita is the word for lightning,” said Tyler Whitaker. “We’re also using it for electricity and for anything that’s digital. And the word for to think is niyu. And so we have pahita niyu is an electric thinker or a computer.”

The last known fluent speaker of the Tunica language was a tribal chief named Sesostrie Youchigant. He was recorded in the 1930s singing one of the tribal songs. This and other old wax recordings and linguists’ notes are the holy grail of reconstructing the language.

“It uncovers things about our culture that we would never know if we didn’t know the Tunica language,” said John Barbry.

Beyond the class, lessons are being taken online. And videos – like this Halloween favorite – are helping to stir interest with today’s youth.

“It’ll probably be for a long time us just knowing phrases and greetings and learning how to apply the language in everyday life. And for some of us that are older, we may never be fluent, but we’ll have a knowledge of the language and we’ll have a knowledge of our culture,” Barbry said.

The creativity and dedication of linguists, teachers and these students will determine if their ancestors’ language will ever be spoken again by Tunica-Biloxi families.

You can learn more about the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana at the tribes cultural center and museum in Marksville.