The Sovereign Nation of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana has become the first Native American tribe to recognize, honor and welcome official representatives of the State of Israel.
During the large ceremony held on November 17, Asher Yarden, Consul General of Israel to the Southwest, and Kevin Sickey, Chairman of the Tribal Council of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, among others, signed a proclamation recognizing the "common histories," dedication to ancient tribal languages, and "shared spirit of endurance" that provide common ground for the Coushattas and the Jews.
The signing ceremony was a major event on the reservation in Elton, Louisiana, with 300 people in attendance. Banners bearing the Star of David and the Coushatta seal were attached to power poles, the local gas station cafe shut down for the event and schoolchildren attended the ceremony, held in a field near the tribe's administration building.
Tribal leaders signed the friendship proclamation at a small, ornate wooden table set on a stage and presented it to the Israeli delegation before a ceremonial stomp dance began.
"It is natural that we feel a connection to you and your people," Sickey told Yarden and the Israeli delegation. "You stand for the same fundamental principles and values upon which the sovereign nation of Coushatta was (founded): freedom and opportunity, justice and deep respect for your history and culture."
Sickey noted that his tribe's gesture is a unique example of a Native American tribe exploring the full benefits of sovereign nationhood afforded to the indigenous North American groups.
Apart from creating a friendly atmosphere, Coushatta members hope business and investment relationships can be formed between Israel and their tribe as a result of forming a relationship.
The tribe, which boasts a membership of 862 people, owns and operates a successful resort. Also in the works are plans to debut a new, multi-million dollar Coushatta Heritage Center, which is scheduled to open in Fall 2009 and will feature interactive exhibits and a language game that will allow visitors to hear and learn about the Koasati language.
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