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Basket Diplomacy book cover
September 2021
University of Nebraska Press

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Basket Diplomacy

Leadership, Alliance-Building, and Resilience among the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, 1884-1984
Denise E. Bates

Before the Coushatta tribe of Louisiana became one of the state’s top private employers — with its vast landholdings and economic enterprises — they lived well below the poverty line and lacked any clear legal status. After settling in the Bayou Blue in 1884, they forged friendships with their neighbors, sparked local tourism and struck strategic alliances with civic and business leaders, aid groups, legislators and other tribes. Coushattas also engaged the public with stories about the tribe’s culture, history and economic interests that intersected with the larger community, all while battling legal marginalization exacerbated by inconsistent government reports regarding their citizenship, treaty status and eligibility for federal Indian services. Well into the 20th century, the tribe had to overcome several major hurdles, including lobbying the Louisiana legislature to pass the state’s first tribal recognition resolution (1972), convincing the Department of the Interior to formally acknowledge the Coushatta Tribe through administrative channels (1973), and engaging in an effort to acquire land and build infrastructure.

"Basket Diplomacy" demonstrates how the Coushatta community worked together — each generation laying a foundation for the next — and how they leveraged opportunities so that existing and newly acquired knowledge, timing, and skill worked in tandem.


Denise E. Bates is the associate dean of student success and community engagement, and a professor of leadership and integrative studies in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts.