Mestiza cultural authority Rhonda Gauthier will be named a Louisiana Tradition Bearer by the Louisiana Folklife Commission and honored at a ceremony Saturday, October 8 at 2 p.m. at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum at 800 Front Street in Natchitoches. Serving as a folklife ambassador for the Louisiana Folklife Commission, Dr. Shane Rasmussen, professor of English and director of the Louisiana Folklife Center at Northwestern State University, will talk with Gauthier about her lifetime spent preserving Louisiana’s traditional folklife. The event is free and open to the general public.
An Adeasonos and member of the Choctaw-Apache Tribe of Ebarb and president of the Ho Minti Society, Inc., Gauthier grew up outside of Zwolle. As a young girl she began learning from the women in her immediate and extended families’ traditional arts such as crochet, embroidery, hand sewing, quilting, cooking, baking and animal tending. Her grandmother taught her midwifery, the use of natural herbs to treat common ailments and herb gardening. Everything she learned as a young girl followed her through to adulthood. After earning a B.A. in anthropology and history from Northwestern State, she worked in the fields of research, genealogy and history, first part-time as a cultural interpreter at Fort St. Jean Baptiste, and later as a full-time interpretive ranger at Nuestra Senora de Pilar de Los Adaes and Fort Jesup State Historic Site. Since 2000 she has worked in the Louisiana Regional Folklife program as an assistant to Dr. Dayna Lee, as an assistant to historical archaeologist Dr. George Avery in the Los Adaes Program and as community coordinator for the Creole Heritage Center. She served as the liaison for the Creole Center to the St. Augustine Historical Society, the Cane River Creole community and Creole communities across Louisiana. Her work during these years included grant writing, research, Creole genealogy, coordinating conferences and maintaining the Badin-Roque Historic structure on Cane River Lake.
In 2005, she produced the film “Maize to Masa,” which documents the Choctaw-Apache process of nixtamalization, a traditional maize preparation process in which dried kernels are cooked and steeped in an alkaline solution, usually water and food-grade lime, to make hominy. The Choctaw-Apache community still uses this process to make tamale dough. In 2008, Gauthier returned to Louisiana State Parks as an interpretive ranger until retiring in 2018. In 2021, Gauthier worked with the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission and Zwolle Depot Museum Board doing research and volunteer work to ready the Depot Museum. Research, genealogy and cultural studies have been never-ending passions. Since 1994, she has worked closely with the Choctaw-Apache Tribe of Ebarb, consulting, researching genealogy, grant writing, working with the Rising Sun Youth and serving on powwow and tribal recognition committees.
The ceremony and discussion are part of a series of events throughout the state for Folklife Month in Louisiana. The event is sponsored by the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum, the Louisiana Folklife Center, and the Louisiana Folklore Society, and the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. Funding is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works, and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, in collaboration with the Louisiana Folklife Commission.