The United Houma Nation is a state recognized Native American tribe with approximately 17,000 citizens throughout the southeastern coast of Louisiana. Despite their large population and ancient presence in Louisiana, the Houma tribe has never been officially recognized by the United States government. The tribe has a long history in the New Orleans area, and the first recorded relationships between French settlers and the Houma date back to the mid 17th century. The name Houma, or Ouma, is generally understood to mean red and is thought to relate to the stripped red cypress trees that are found throughout the area.
For at least three centuries the Houma have used woven baskets to transport and store items such as food and clothing. The baskets are made out of plants readily available in the Louisiana swamps, including palmetto, cypress, cattail, and river cane. Today, basket weaving remains an important component of Houma culture as it incorporates both traditions that have been passed down through the generations and a few that have been revitalized in recent decades. The beautiful palmetto baskets are considered to be works of art and can be found in a special exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art now through March 2nd, 2014. You can find more information about this exciting exhibit here and more information about the United Houma Nation here.