- What up y'all?
I'm standing in the heart of the French Quarter, right on Bourbon Street, right outside of Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House and this is where you'll find something that New Orleans is famous for all over the world, oysters!
This is Good Gumbo.
(upbeat music) In a place that has just as much water as it has land, we take full advantage of what comes out of that water.
Especially, these oysters.
We eat them raw, fried, grilled, in a po boy.
But there is one crown jewel, that's made famous here in New Orleans.
It's called the Oyster Rockefeller.
It was created in 1889 at Antoine's Restaurant.
At that time, there was a shortage of the French favorite, escargot.
So the chef got creative and substituted something there was no shortage of, oysters.
They named it after John D. Rockefeller, one the wealthiest Americans at the time.
It's oysters topped with an herb sauce and bread crumbs.
You know, people have been eating oysters here long before this place was even called New Orleans.
And to learn more about that, I'm going to go have lunch with my good friend, Scierra Legarde.
We're going to slurp down some oysters over at Bourbon House.
Scierra, thank you so much for joining me over here at Bourbon House.
It's a pleasure and an honor to have you.
- Thank you for having me.
- I want to you tell me a little bit about your background.
- Yes, I'm Choctaw, so the Choctaw heritage where my family comes from the North Shore on Bayou Lacombe.
A lot of our commute would be from over there to New Orleans.
- You can trace your lineage back generations obviously right?
- Yes, just from the French side, over two hundred years.
- And that's going to the North Shore as well.
And of course, on my native heritage side, thousands of years.
We were always a friendly people.
With the French, we actually intermarried a lot.
So a lot of our culture we shared as well as language.
A lot of Choctaw words come from French and a lot of French words come from Choctaw.
- The city of New Orleans, the name itself had a different name, way back then.
What's that name?
- Bulbancha, yes.
It translates to "a land of many tongues."
Bulbancha and the "land of many tongues," that didn't just mean the area what is now New Orleans today.
It actually refers to the lands surrounding all of the Mississippi.
- So pretty much the Delta.
You had villages that lived all up and down those coastlines particularly with the different dialects but you still had that trade language.
- We've been sitting here now and we just got some beautiful oysters.
These things to me are like gold.
I think we gotta dive in.
Speaking of oysters, tell me a little bit about the kind of food that Native Americans either ate or survived on.
- Starting from my culture, yes, we did harvest oysters, and we would even fish.
Not in the traditional way that you would think.
We would take split river cane and the Mississippi Choctaw would do this as well, and make sort of V shaped dams and kind of lure the fish into it and just scoop them up.
We used everything.
People don't realize just the plant life, how many uses they had just from basket weaving, but also for netting and trapping.
- There's this thing that I heard called middens, right?
- Yes, middens are like tiny mounds that we have.
I like to say this is a good use of our waste.
They consisted of oysters shells, predominantly oyster shells, animal bones, sometimes you would find arrowheads of stone that were traded from up north that we no longer used.
- This was just a pile?
- A pile but, a constructed pile, if you would say.
And it's found all along the coastlines, even in woods, and along the bayous and a lot of times we did that to protect the environment, it wasn't just there randomly.
A lot of people think that these are just random discarded waste, and it's not.
Everything we did had meaning, it a purpose to it.
- It wasn't just a bunch of people sitting around eating oysters and throwing shells.
- Right, no, it wasn't like that at all.
- It was strategic.
- Yes, exactly.
- That's awesome.
One tribe in particular, the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw band of the Isle de Jean Charles is literally being encouraged to move completely off their coastal land in Louisiana.
Climate change refugees, if you will.
The land has eroded tremendously over the years and now even to this day, you drive down there and it's all water.
When I first had the conceptual idea what New Orleans was, we would go down there to go fishing.
And there was land as far as the eye can see and now you go down there, there's a straight road and just nothing but water on both sides.
We lost an area the size of Rhode Island since the 1930s.
It's a delta and deltas compact and sink.
And usually new river floods, add new sediment that makes up for the sinking.
And then there's sea level rise, and a lot of other factors like canal cutting and hurricanes.
(upbeat music) We went down to the docks and they were bringing in boats of seafood, crab and redfish and I threw a seafood stew together.
That's what living off the land is.
It's like grabbing those ingredients right then and there, cookin' it up.
And just experiencing, like life, at the dinner table with friends and family.
Wow, keep it coming.
Don't even stop.
- These are really good.
This reminds me of being home.
This is how we would eat it, raw.
We wouldn't fry it or anything because actually that is very bad for us.
We never had fried foods.
- So, just how it came out of the Gulf, where we would catch them, we ate.
- You know it's crazy to think that somebody long, long time ago had to get in the water and pull one of these out and say, you know what, I think I want to see what's inside because I want to eat it.
I mean that's like literally, survival.
You really don't know until you try it.
- Either they were very hungry or very brave.
We did this.
There's a few things that we eat here in this city of New Orleans but also in the state of Louisiana, cornbread, maque choux, even kush kush, grits.
Do you consider those to be Native American?
- Definitely, yes.
That was one of the things that we shared was how our process of making cornbread and grits.
Maque choux, I know when you go to a lot of restaurants in New Orleans it's on the side dish and it's marketed as an authentic Creole dish.
It's really good and in some ways, it does have a Creole twist to it with some of the seasoning.
But originally it is Muskogean.
Muskogean that means, Southeastern.
I think the one thing us as natives in general want people to know is when they think about us and our culture, I don't want them to think of us as tragic.
In a tragedy because we're not.
We're still here and the fact that we still exist is a testament to our resilience and our resistance.
That's actually a saying in Indian country, our existence is our resistance.
But we have allies, native and non-natives that are here, that are working with us to help provide sustainable living conditions and preserving our culture as well.
- Tell you what, thanks again for coming.
Let's eat up.
- All right, sounds good.