Spotlight on our Tribal Nations: The Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana
Our team recently visited with Richard Picard and the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana at its Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel in Charenton, LA. We will have more to share about that visit at a later date, but we were able to ask Richard Picard, Director of Public Relations and Advertising at the Casino, a few questions about the tribe, its approach to economic development, and how the tribe is responding to COVID-19. We hope you enjoy learning about the Chitimacha, which is the only federally recognized tribe in the state that still occupies parts of their original tribal lands.
NOTE: We appreciate Mr. Picard’s and the tribe’s willingness to share their story, even as Hurricane Laura approached the state. Our friends in Louisiana and across the Gulf South are in our thoughts as they recover from the storm.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and the Chitimacha Tribe?
The Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana is located in the south central region of Louisiana and is the only federally recognized tribe in the state to still inhabit a portion of their aboriginal homeland. I am an enrolled member of the tribe and I currently serve at the Director of Public Relations and Advertising at Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel in Charenton, LA.
In addition, I serve on the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana’s Economic Development Committee and as a management committee member of Sitimaxa Holdings, LLC. - an independently owned Tribal entity specializing in government contracting.
2. Can you tell us about any economic development efforts the Chitimacha Tribe is currently undertaking?
The Chitimacha Tribe is extremely active on the economic development front. The Tribe has evaluated many businesses over the past year for potential investment, explored hemp growing and production, evaluated franchise opportunities, and began looking for solutions to attract businesses to the local area.
3. COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on not only tribal economies, but tribal citizens as well. Can you give us any insight into how COVID-19 has affected your tribe economically as well as socially?
COVID-19 has devastated Indian Country, both economically and socially. The Tribe had to make some tough decisions to ensure the safety of our team members, community, and guests by temporarily suspending all operations at Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel, the tribe's main economic engine. Our tribal nation is very fortunate that infections of the virus were minimal as compared to many others throughout the country. The Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana continues to pray for all those Indian Country.
4. Has the tribe taken any public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
The Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana has taken a very aggressive approach in dealing with the virus. For example, the schools, daycare center, and administrative offices are all open with mandatory contactless temperature checks, enhanced sanitation and cleaning procedures, and sanitizer stations throughout each building. Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel has also implemented some of the most rigorous processes in the industry, including but not limited to the placement of additional hand sanitizing stations, enhanced cleaning and sanitation processes that occur more frequently with deep cleaning overnight while the property is closed to the public, mandatory contactless temperature checks for guests and team members, mandatory face coverings for guests and team members, two entrances and exits with security stationed at each offering gloves, face masks, and alcohol wipes to all who enter.
5. What lessons have you learned from this experience and how will it guide your future plans for your citizens and economic development?
The major lesson learned throughout the pandemic is that anything can happen and economic diversification absolutely necessary. It should happen soon rather than later.
6. You attended RES 2020 in Las Vegas, can you tell us a little bit about that experience? How has NCAIED and RES helped promote economic development in your tribe?
As a tribal member, I was amazed to see the large volume of economic development resources available throughout the country. The experience was phenomenal! The entire conference was well put together and I would love to bring a team to the next in-person event - the networking alone was worth the investment! NCAIED and RES really forced me to think about what the next steps in our tribe’s economic development journey should be. For our people, the next step is to begin developing more business-friendly codes in our judicial system and modernizing our tribal constitution.