A List of Plant Curatives Obtained From the Houma Indians of Louisiana

A List of Plant Curatives Obtained From the Houma Indians of Louisiana
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  A List of Plant Curatives Obtained from the Houma Indians of LouisianaAuthor(s): Frank G. SpeckSource: Primitive Man, Vol. 14, No. 4 (Oct., 1941), pp. 49-73Published by: The George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research Stable URL: . Accessed: 17/04/2013 17:08 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  .  . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact  . The George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research  is collaborating with JSTOR todigitize, preserve and extend access to Primitive Man. This content downloaded from on Wed, 17 Apr 2013 17:08:32 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  PRIMITIVE MAN Quarterly ulletin of the Catholic Anthropological onference Vol. XIV October, 941 No. 4 A LIST OF PLANT CURATIVES OBTAINED FROM THE HOUMA NDIANS OF LOUISIANA FRANK' G. SPECK University f Pennsylvania N 1937-38 investigation of the ethnic relationships of the Houma Indians of Louisiana, numbering by approximate estimate ome two thousand persons,1 nabled the writer o list a series of native plants and the medical folk-lore ssociated with them.2 Some excursions nto the bayou country nhabited by these people in their rapping nd sea-food gathering omad- ism permitted he collection f both plant specimens nd data on plants and some animal substances mployed n curing he com- plaints which afflict hese human wanderers of the inundated 1 There are no Houma individuals r families f pure blood. The present population o classified omprises lements f other ndian descent early historic hoctaw, iloxi, Chitimacha), arly panish, rench nd unspecified American, esides everal ecent ccessions f Filipinos y marriage. ome families f Houma descent have intermarried ith mulattoes, which cir- cumstance as been cause for classification f the whole group s such by local partisans f racial segregation. 2 Acknowledgment s made to the University f Pennsylvania aculty Research Fund (Grant no. 416) for partial upport f the field work which produced hese results. The botanical advice of Dr. John M. Fogg, Jr. and Flora Fender, University f Pennsylvania, as been sought n the den- tities given, as derived from plant specimens collected. Dr. Maurice Gallagher has been consulted or aid in Creole-French omenclature nd modern rench quivalents. This content downloaded from on Wed, 17 Apr 2013 17:08:32 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  50 PRIMITIVE MAN marshes and cypress wamps of the Creole-speaking arishes of the Gulf coast. Maurice Billiot, Charley Billiot, David Billiot and their families were the srcinal sources of information. Again in 1941 a return o the Houma field placed me in contact with Michele Billiot, a middle-aged man reputed among the Houma dwelling on Bayou La Fourche below Golden Meadow to be well experienced n the art of healing by means of herbal remedies. Since then the isting nd checking f plants and their identities n the French patois of the bayou country have been aided by the cooperation f Miss Wilhelmina Hooper of Indian Point, Dulac, Terre Bonne Parish. Louisiana (Creole) French was the sole medium f communication ith the informants, ho knew no other anguage. The historic Houma are to be classified with the Muskhogian-speaking eoples of the Southeast asso- ciated with the early Choctaw.3 In view of the recent stimulation f interest n ethno-botany and particularly n the herbological practices of tribes of the Southeast fforded y the publication f a monograph n this field of recording by Mrs. Taylor,4 enumerating 85 plants, it is thought dvisable to print these notes, ncomplete s they are. Future attention will be devoted to the curative practices of the Indian groups urviving n the lower parishes of the state, and it is thought hat material made available through ublication now will be of advantage later to the projects contemplated. As for the Houma data so far assembled, onsidering he extent f terri- tory covered by the Houma trappers n their oastal wanderings, the wealth of its herbaceous ife and the number of the people who could still be questioned, iberal allowances should be made. Mrs. Taylor has based certain nterpretations, f historical nd medical bearing, upon material collected by her among the See J. R. Swanton, ndian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Adjacent Coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Bureau of Armerican thnology, Bulletin 43, pp. 285-92, Wash., 1911. 4 Lyda Averill aylor, Plants Used as Curatives y Certain outheastern Tribes, Botanical Museum of Harvard University, ambridge, 940. As reference ources for method nd material he recent ystematic orks f R. E. Schulter, . A. Vestal and Oakes Ames of the Botanical Museum of Harvard University 1939) have been utilized nd acknowledged y both Mrs. Taylor and the writer. This content downloaded from on Wed, 17 Apr 2013 17:08:32 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  PLANT CURATIVES OBTAINED FROM HOUMA INDIANS 51 Koasati (Creek) and lists of plant cures known to the Choctaw, obtained by Bushnell, to the Cherokee, s recorded by Mooney, Natchez, Chickasaw and Alabama, to the Creeks, published by Swanton, and to the Catawba published by the writer. Her interpretations f native medicinal achievement hrough xperi- mentation will be later discussed n the ight f ecology s affected by the material on Houma herbology resented here. Distribu- tional records, t is apparent, may only be held as possessing significance when checked with biotic data. To the following otes some additions will be made from he recorded observations ublished by the French historian e Page du Pratz (1758) 5 who emphasized the knowledge possessed by the Indians of Louisiana in the art of healing through plant mediums. While the plants and their properties mentioned y Du Pratz were not specifically ttributed y him to the Houma, it is appropriate o the subject to refer o them n the present instance, f for no other reason than to bring his contribution o the fore as an important ne in the further rosecution f our research n the area. I have accordingly eferred o Du Pratz when he mentions urative qualities of plants and trees occurring in the Houma categories. The valuable work of Dr. W. A. Read6 has been constantly eferred o in the preparation f the material offered. I may add a few remarks n the cultural mportance f plant curatives among the Houma, and upon the personalities f the herbalists hemselves. It was found hat knowledge f remedies is general property o the group. Interest was easy to arouse in the camps and shacks of the Houma trappers ecause the nterest was already strongly resent. It was the men who gave informa- tion from general tore f experience nd hearsay. Information sought was freely given, often volunteered. One of them (Michele Billiot) was a locally-known consultant, almost esteemed as a doctor, on Bayou La Fourche. No evidence of secrecy r mysticism as betrayed; their ttitude eemed prac- 5 A. S. Le Page du Pratz, Histoire de la Louisiane, aris, 1758, Tome 2. 6 W. A. Read, Louisiana-French, niversity tudies, No. 5, Louisiana State University ress, Baton Rouge, 1931. This content downloaded from on Wed, 17 Apr 2013 17:08:32 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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