Of all of history’s enemies, e.g., fire, storms, erosion, pollution, or growth; the biggest enemy of all is Time. As Time passes we are bound to lose track of what makes up our history… people, events, structures, records, stories, etc. This blog proposes to share topics of interest that were not available at the time of publishing our book, "Bayou Pigeon, LA - Spirit of the Atchafalaya."
Qualifications for Consideration of the Caroline Dormon Outstanding Louisiana Naturalist Award
1. Individuals must live in Louisiana and contribute to our understanding of Louisiana’s natural history.
2. Award recognizes a lifetime achievement in the field of natural history.
3. Individual must have made a significant contribution to the understanding of Louisiana’s natural history
4. Individual has track record of sharing his/her contribution with the lay public, scientific community, or both.
It is generally accepted that a Naturalist is an expert in Natural history, especially zoology/botany.
There are many distinct types of ‘’ology’s / ologists,’ typically identified by the type of organisms they study or their area of specialization such as: Archaeology / Archaeologist, Anthropology / Anthropologist, Zooarchaeology / Zooarchaeologist, Paleologist, Herpetologist, Ornithologist, Ichthyologist, Wildlife Biologist etc.
Regarding Zooarchaeology and archaeozoology both are the study of animal remains at archeological sites. Archaeozoology is the study of relationships between humans and animals over time.
Jim’s knowledge covers all the areas mentioned above.
The best ‘ologists’ of any type are those who not only book knowledge but have lived the experience firsthand. Naturalists develop real world common sense.
Thus, the best naturalist would be one whose knowledge of nature is more than just academic education. Jim has the advanced formal education, and he has also experienced these areas of study as a young man living in the wild Atchafalaya Basin.
Being a naturalist involves photography, teaching, and writing.
Along with those skills mentioned above, Jim’s experiences as a commercial fisherman in the Atchafalaya Swamp Basin, has helped him develop a marvelous eye for the landscape, and a deep insight into the nature and culture of the Atchafalaya Basin
He has worked as an adjunct researcher in the department of Sociology, Anthropology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he analyzes animal bones from prehistoric Native American middens.
He has given numerous presentations at libraries and museums up and down the boundaries of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, preserving and documenting the culture and folklife of the Atchafalaya Basin.
Naturalist to be good, need to publish … Things that are true, original and their target audience will find interesting.
To prove that we use analogy of the proverbial saying (c1942) …'You are what you eat' is the notion that to be fit and healthy you need to eat good food.
Apply that logic to a Naturalist … you are what you publish !
Published stories on The Delahoussaye Riverlogue
His Riverlogue blog contains over 220 topics and serves as a window into the natural history of the Atchafalaya Basin: the people, the seasons, the water, the mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and life in general.
Some examples of Jim’s writings are:
The Levee, Basin Education, Basin Houseboats, Basin Bedding, Nighttime, Beginning Life, Myette Point Boats and Motors, Basin Steamboats, Basin Law and Order, Basin Medicine, Basin Religion, Timber Work, Earning and Prices, Fishboat Commerce, Lines, Hooks, Cotton and Nylon, Cut Bait, Crawfish as Bait, Live Bait, Line Fishing Bait, The Trot Line, Snag Lines, Tight Lines’, Crosslines, Bush Lines, Bent Lines, Adjusting Bridles, Blue Cats or Channel Cats, Commerce – Moss and The Rest, Boat riding Birds, Cool Water, Crabs in Fresh Water, The Dead Tree, Snakes and Snakebirds, Birds and Beavers, Frog Survey, Winter Solstice, White Eels, The River Lives, Crabs and Gator Remains, The Cow Killer, Dead Moccasins Bite, The Shrimp Are Back, Tar and Traps, Skimmer Magic, Contrails and Ibis, Frog Night, Thrushes in Feliciana’s, Pregnant Shrimp, Gars, Kites and Mayflies, Blue Birds and Clean Water, Hummer Banding, Eagles and Egrets, Cormorants, Eagles and Alligators, Bees and Birds, River Shrimp, Peregrine, Mosquitos, Shrimp Study, Fox Sparrow, Wood duck Thoughts, The Sharks Are Back.
Blue Cats or Channel Cats ?
I did run the line on Sunday after baiting it with shrimp on Saturday. It did pretty well – 12 blue cats, four channel cats, and five gous. So, that was twenty-one fish and twenty-two fish for the two consecutive days I baited it. Forty-three fish is plenty enough to clean, for me at least. I cleaned them all yesterday afternoon and it took me 21/2 hours. Some of the catfish and most of the gous were too big to clean by hand and when you have to hang them it takes more time. But now the freezer is starting to look more respectable with about fifty catfish and fifteen gous in it. With the beginning of a stockpile, I can begin to think about trading. One thing about the line, I baited with about a dozen small live fish, and they were not touched in four days. This is odd because live bait usually catches something nice, like a ten-pound goujon or something like that. This time – nothing. Come to think of it, it has been a while since I caught a goujon of any size. I have noticed over the past six years we have lived by the river that I seem to be catching fewer and fewer large fish as each year passes. I think I’m fishing the same way, so I don’t think that’s the problem. I know I’m not fishing them out because the river is way too big for me to influence the fish population in a serious way; there is a constant source of new fish from above and below. That’s a good feeling. When you fish the dead-end canals and small bayous, especially in the marsh, you can catch most of the fish in this limited water, and then you have to wait until more fish move in, or you have to move your lines to a different place.
Earlier I mentioned that the best way to tell the difference between blue and channel cats was to look at the anal fin (lower fin just ahead of the tail). The channel cat has a rounded edge on the fin and a blue cat has a straight edge. I didn’t have a picture of both together earlier, but yesterday I had both and I think this picture shows the difference.
Jim Delahoussaye was born in New Iberia, Louisiana in 1938. He has worked as an environmental scientist, teacher, folklorist, and commercial fisherman in the Atchafalaya Basin. He currently resides on the Atchafalaya River in Butte Larose, LA. with his wife, Carolyn P. Delahoussaye.
He likes open-minded company and the discussion of ideas. He likes to collect cypress drift to display around his place.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette (formerly Southwestern Louisiana Institute), BS, 1963;
University of Louisiana at Lafayette (formerly University of Southwestern Louisiana), MS Zoology, 1965.
Arizona State University, Ph.D. Candidate Zoology. 1968-1972. Biological research in the U.S. (Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Louisiana), and in Colombia, Venezuela, Guiana, Surinam, Canada, and Alaska.
1965 – 1966: : Consultant in orchid meristem culture. South San Francisco, California. Served as the consultant on building and equipping of a commercial orchid meristem laboratory.
1966 – 1968: Biology Instructor, University of Southwestern Louisiana. Taught Basic Zoology and Vertebrate Zoology to undergraduate students.
1972 – 1982: Commercial fisherman in the Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana. Made his living doing trotline fishing; created trotline equipment; used castnet, shrimp traps, shrimp bushes to acquire bait; baited and ran 1,000 hooks per day. Made crawfish traps; baited and ran 200 traps per day during crawfish season.
1982 – 1985: Coastal Ecologist: Texas General Land Office. Austin, Texas. Investigated and issued coastal pipeline permits for oil and gas activity to protect coastal environment of Texas.
1985 – 1988: Owner and operator of Del’s Restaurant, New Iberia, Louisiana. Supervised preparation of authentic Cajun cuisine. Hired musicians to play Cajun music and initiated Cajun dance lessons for patrons.
1988 – 1989: Commercial fisherman in the Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana. Made crawfish traps; baited and ran 200 traps per day during crawfish season.
1989 – 2006: Manager, Water Pollution Control, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. Supervised the granting of wastewater treatment permits. Supervised the transfer of permitting authority from the Federal Environmental Protection Agency to the State of Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
2006 – Present: Zooarchaeological Consultant (voluntary). All activities that support this position are documented in the remainder of this award application,
Member and former board member of the Louisiana Folklore Society
Member of the Louisiana Archeological Society.
Board member of ‘Friends of Atchafalaya,’ Vice-President A. James Delahoussaye collection of
American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. …Collection of field recordings of interviews with Atchafalaya River Basin, Louisiana, residents about their lives, traditions, and folkways, recorded from 1974-2010, as well as approximately 645 digital images documenting the same traditions.
Fouquette, M.J. and Jim Delahoussaye. 1966. Noteworthy Herpetological Records from Louisiana ; March 1966, The Southwestern Naturalist 11(1):137.
Delahoussaye, A. James, Thieret, John W. 1967. Cyperus subgenus Kyllinga (Cyperaceae) in the continental United States. Sida 3: 128-136. (John Thieret was the authority on Sedges (Cyperceae) in Louisiana. Jim discovered a new subgenus of sedges while working with Dr. Thieret. The discovery was validated by specimens from Kew Gardens, London, England.)
Fouquette, M.J., Jr., and A.J. Delahoussaye. 1977. Sperm morphology in the Hyla rubra group (Amphibia, Anura, Hylidae), and it’s bearing on generic status. Journal of Herpetology, 11: 387-396. (This publication was based on Jim’s academic findings for his Master’s degree.)
Bauer, Raymond T. and James Delahoussaye. 2008. Life history migrations of the amphidromous river shrimp Macrobrachium ohione from a continental large river system. Journal of Crustacean Biology. 28(4), 622-632. (The breeding migration of river shrimp was previously unknown. Jim and Raymond discovered that river shrimp required a transition from fresh to salt water in order to reproduce.)
Delahoussaye, A. James, Brad R. Moon, and Mark A. Rees. 2015. Zooarchaeology of the Portage Mounds site (16SMS in southern Louisiana). Louisiana Archaeology. 39: 5-31. Jim’s analysis of the archeological material at this location suggested that prehistoric Native Americans in south Louisiana were eating very large (5 pounds) bull frogs as part of their regular diet.)
“The movie features C.E. Richard, James Delahoussaye, Edward Couvillier, Larry Couvillier, Kevin Couvillier and Justin Couvillier. Edward Couvillier builds exquisitely made cypress boats. But he doesn’t use any blueprints or plans. Not even a sketch. Instead, in perfect proportions, he visualizes an extraordinarily complex three-dimensional image of the vessel in which every fine line, every sweeping contour, every tight angle, is built exactly from the mind of its maker.”
A Pilgrimage to Bayou Chene. U-Tube Video. 2011. 14K views
A put-put boat from Bayou Sorrel to Bayou Chene in the Atchafalaya Basin was a recreation of the transportation in the Basin that ended in 1950. Video produced by Jim Delahoussaye.
Canoeing the Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana. #719. www.trailside.com
A video adventure of a canoe trip organized by Trailside: Make Your Own Adventure. Participants were Sandra Thompson, Charles Fryling, and Jim Delahoussaye.
Acadian Odyssey. J.G. Productions The Woodlands, TX
Jim Delahoussaye organized a group of Cajun dancers who wore authentic Acadian reproduction clothing and portrayed the Cajun experience through dance. Jim hired a professional dancer to teach him the three traditional Cajun dances in order to become a teacher, himself.
Off the Menu. Turner South Originals Show #105. Air Date: 8/28/01
Turner Broadcasting, Atlanta, hired Jim Delahoussaye to obtain turtles for a video about Turtle Soup made by Commander’s Palace, New Orleans. Video participants were a commercial fisherman and Jim Delahoussaye.
Tall Tales from the Deep South: Killer Crawfish of the Atchafalaya Basin. Turner South Originals.... Turner Broadcasting, Atlanta, produced and aired a video starring Carl Carline and Jim Delahoussaye exploring the dangers of life in the Atchafalaya with Killer Crawfish.
Basin Odyssey Part 1: Travels of the Myette Point Community
Basin Odyssey Part 2: Land to Water to Land (Presented on multiple dates and venues)... These presentations follow the 150-year travels of a set of families beginning on land and then moving mostly onto houseboats within the Atchafalaya Basin. When the Basin finally became uninhabitable due to critical environmental and economic changes in the period around 1950, they had to abandon life mostly on the water and come to terms with living on land. Roads, cars, electricity, lawn mowers, mandatory schools, paychecks, taxes…all these things were very new. But many of their self-sufficiency skills were useful in adapting to the new way of life.
Boats on the Atchafalaya (Presented on multiple dates and venues)... Before circa 1950 there were no outboard motors and no boats that could host them in the Basin. Once the obvious advantage of the motors over manpower was established, boats were adapted to the needs of the “new” outboards, and everything speeded up in life on the water. Boats that required oars fell out of favor but remained popular for a while with the older generations of people in the swamp.
The Myette Point Community (Presented on multiple dates and venues) ... The travels of 28 families as they experience the rewarding and sometimes difficult life in the Atchafalaya Basin.
Atchafalaya Outdoors – 1000 Years Ago. Upper St. Martin Parish 2016 ... The story archeology tells about life in upper St. Martin Parish (Louisiana) 1000 years ago. The bones of what the people harvested tell us about their food habits, and the hunting and fishing tools they used can even give evidence of how the animals were procured. The animal bones give evidence of what the climate was like.
Frontier Religion – The Word of God in the Atchafalaya Houseboat Communities
Louisiana Folklore Society 2011, Catholic and Protestant religions both established “outposts” in the difficult-to-reach portions of the Atchafalaya swamp country. This talk introduces Brother Ira Marks and Father Gobeil and gives some idea about what they were able to physically and spiritually accomplish with the Basin population.
The Atchafalaya Fishboat... Louisiana Folklore Society 2010... This item was a result of the isolation of the Basin population. People needed a way to sell what they harvested and buy items only available outside the Basin. The commercial “fishboat” served both needs. The relationship between the people and the fishboat was explored.
Ida and Jesse – A Life in the Swamp, Louisiana Folklore Society 2012 ... These two members of the Myette Point community illustrate what life was like for people who met, courted, married and pursued a life as fishermen and timber industry workers. Women like Ida were active as earners of money from fishing as well as raising a family almost single handedly. Jesse was a timber worker who work related accidents sometimes reflected the difficulty of getting medical help in the Basin.
Material Culture in Bed – Asleep in the Atchafalaya Houseboat, Louisiana Folklore Society 2013 ... One of the things people have to have to live a good life is rest after a hard day. A good mattress is helpful to get that rest. Before the advent of artificial stuffing for mattresses, natural materials were used. In the Basin, most mattresses were made of corn shucks or Spanish moss. This talk discussed the making of moss mattresses.
Swamp Life – Aspects of a Houseboat Culture, West Baton Rouge Museum event 2010 ... What was it like to live on the water? Treating river water to make it drinkable, building a barge to put a house on, living with no electricity or heat/air conditioning? These were among the everyday things that people learned to do if they lived on a houseboat. Raising ten children in a space the size of a modern living room took skill and forbearance. And people rarely could swim
Snakes and Frogs
University of Louisiana, Lafayette archeology class 2012; Among the many thousands of bones at this site, a surprisingly large number of bullfrog bone was evident. Not only the number of frog bones, but also the frogs were very large, much larger than exist in Louisiana today. The average bullfrog today weighs less than two pounds, these frogs weighed five to six pounds. One frog was thought to have fed a family of three people. Evidence of how the frogs might have been harvested was also considered.
Zooarchaeology in Louisiana – A Coastal Study Example
CCET 2012; Friends of the Atchafalaya (FOA) 2012... Six coastal Louisiana sites were compared for the similarities and differences in the animal species they contain and the number and size of the populations in the different sites. As expected, coastal sites have always had a lot of muskrats, but very few deer and bear.
The Lady in White: A Ghost Story. Delivered by Jim Delahoussaye to a group of Evangeline Boy Scouts sitting around a late night campfire. 2012.
Jim volunteers his time as a research scientist (zooarchaeologist) in the Anthropology Program, Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Child and Family Services at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. He identifies bone fragments excavated from prehistoric Native American midden sites. Jim analyses vertebrate faunal remains (from fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds) that represent parts of the material record recovered during archeological excavation. Particularly in Louisiana, invertebrate animal remains (like mollusks, crustaceans, and snails) also are associated with ancient human sites. Faunal analyses require knowledge of faunal anatomy and taxonomy, but careful study of environmental and archeological contexts is required. Bone and shell remains also may show how past humans fashioned tools and artifacts used for everyday tasks and ritual occasions.
He first determines if the bone fragment belonged to a bird, fish, amphibian, reptile, or mammal. He next determines what bone the fragment came from. He has been doing this as a volunteer since 2006. He has worked on bones from Poverty Point (World Heritage Site), Louisiana State University, University of Louisiana, Lafayette, the office of the Louisiana State Archeologist, and is currently identifying excavated material from a site on the Brazos River in Texas. He works on these projects three to five days per week.
Expert Zooarchaeologist are rare in Louisiana, and Jim’s activities in this field have earned considerable attention. Major archeological collections of faunal materials from throughout Louisiana are sent to Jim for analysis.
Jim Delahoussaye has made significant contributions to public awareness of his body of work as a biologist, zooarchaeologist, herpetologist, anthropologist, and osteologist.
Preservation of Cypress Legacy
Jim promotes the stewardship of cypress trees in Louisiana --preserving 200 year old , alive at the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.The Atchafalaya Basin swamp is filled with thousands of old-growth cypresses that were spared cutting because they were, for the most part, hollow or disfigured.
Jim points out that several species of birds have special affinities for cypress and its swamp habitat.
Pileated woodpeckers carve their nest cavity out of old cypress trees.
Warblers’ nest in cavities and are associated with southern aquatic habitat. Northern parula warblers, another migrant, nest in the Spanish moss that grows in moist habitat hanging from the limbs of cypress trees.
Bald eagles and ospreys like the flat top of old trees because they make good nest sites for the large bulky nests.
Documenting Archeological sites
Jim and Cliff LeGrange, (member) of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Commission have begun visiting the archeological sites that have not been tendered for additional mitigation in the Bayou Pigeon -Grand Lake Vector.
Site 16IB8 - La Montagne Bayou Pigeon
La Montange is Cajun French for ``The Mountain”. ‘Mon_ton’ is phonetic slang that locals use to identify this place. The Montange is located near Big Bayou Pigeon and Bayou Mallet, a stream in the Bayou Pigeon/Grand Lake vector. La Montange is located in T 12 S R 11 E, Sec. 2. This site is isolated and exceedingly difficult to get to in low water because the site can only be reached over land. It is usually flooded during the annual spring rising water of the Atchafalaya Floodway. Only a few Bayou Pigeon folks know its location, and most of them are over the age of sixty. The ‘Mon_ton’, has always been considered a secret spot by the locals, because of its remoteness, difficulty to find and low water access. It looks out of place because it can be found on a ridge that is at least five feet above the floor of the surrounding swamp. The site was first described in 1952 by Kniffen. Further attempts to relocate the site were unsuccessful in between 1952 and 1973. During all my years of research in the Atchafalaya Basin, Jim Delahoussaye was the first person I ever met who recognized “Mon ton” as an official State Archaeological site.
Between 1920 and 1952 there were at least ten separate locations where people congregated into small communities in the interior of the Atchafalaya Basin. More than fifty houseboats and shanties were moored/built on the natural alluvial levees of streams and were constantly occupied from Morgan City in the south to Hog Island in the north. Many of the houseboat locations were situated next to high ground which were the same locations chosen by prehistoric Native Americans. Most of them were located in the Grand Lake area of the Atchafalaya Basin.
The US Army Corps of Engineers creation of the Atchafalaya Floodway in 1936 eventually caused the abandonment of these locations leading to the creation of levee communities along the edges of the Levees of the east and west Atchafalaya Floodways. People transitioned from a nomadic existence in floating houses to cars, towns, and electricity and lawn mowing machines.
Jim has documented this lost history. His information is included in the US Library of Congress, American Folklife Center, Riverlogue Blog, and presentations
16 IB 45,46 &47 Catfish Bayou At Grand Lake Iberia Parish
On Catfish Bayou at Grand Lake on the 1832 Meander Line of Grand Lake -Iberia Parish
2021 – Jim & Cliff with Descendants of Families That Live on The Site
The sites are similar to La Montagne Bayou Pigeon; they are not easily found because of Grand Lake accretion and sedimentation and require long walks to get to them.
Without Jim’s research, the history of this site would become obscure.
Thus far Jim and Cliff LeGrange have visited and updated three known sites and one previously unknown site.
Poet Laureate ?
“Jim Delahoussaye - I wrote this poem in 2002 entitled ‘Atchafalaya Is”, to remind myself of why the Atchafalaya is important, both as a physical entity and as a concept.
“Swamps are often seen as places of powerful energy or as murky, dangerous places, home to a profusion of noxious plants and poisonous animals. The Atchafalaya River Basin Swamp is constantly adapting to climate, ecology—and even the changes that humans bring. The Atchafalaya River Basin has its own folklife, culture and lifeways.
“The Swamp changes depending on the seasons, from quiet, warm, slow flow to rises of eighteen feet or more. There are changes in the lives of the people, the birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles that use the river. The landscape in the basin changes as well with the seasons.”
Why does his work matter?
Because …The Atchafalaya Basin is a National Treasure ! Jim is constantly watching and protecting the environment.
Someone needs to explain these things to the jurisdictional agencies who make the rules and set policy. Jim’s work helps thousands of people who use the Basin resources to make a living and/or enjoy outdoor activities understand and appreciate its value.
This just a small samplings of his life long work…
Jim’s life’s work has been to document, preserve and protect the Atchafalaya Basin and the Natural world.
Help me Congratulate him and Jim ....keep on keeping on