Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana

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Avoyelles (French: Paroisse des Avoyelles) is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. The parish seat is Marksville. In 2000, its population was 41,481. The parish is named for the Avoyel Indian tribe.



Avoyelles Parish is known for its French-speaking history, with traditions in music and food. The area was first settled by Native Americans around 300 BC. Today on the banks of the old Mississippi River channel in Marksville, three large burial mounds, a museum and a national park commemorate their civilization. Tunicas from the Natchez tribes east of the river conquered and assimilated with the Avoyels nearly two centuries ago and are currently the largest Native American group in Avoyelles.

Spanish and African traders were probably the first foreigners to arrive in the area by 1650. In late the 18th century European families from Normandy and other parts of France, Scotland, Belgium, Italy, Germany and Spain arrived and established the towns and villages that exist today. Their direct ties to Europe set them apart from the Acadians (Cajuns) of most of southern Louisiana. Later, blacks serving under Napoleon and those loyal to France in Haiti and the French West Indies settled in Avoyelles. Arriving as refugees, they were taken in by the Native American and European families of the area. The blending of these three cultures created a distinct Creole culture noted in the local language, food and family ties.

Today the Avoyelles Parish culture conveniently falls under the larger unbrella of "Cajun" because of the similarities in speech, food, and various folk traditions. But, it should be made clear that very little, if any, of the culture descends from the Acadian tradition. Middle and south Louisiana had been settled by both black and white francophones long before "The Grand Derangement", when the Acadians were expelled by the English from Acadia (present day Nova Scotia). The people of Avoyelles would more correctly be called "French Creoles" because they descend from those born in the French colony. "Cajuns" or "Cadjins" would not be a correct term for those of the French culture of Avoyelles, because "Cajun" refers to those who came from Acadia. "Coonass", a popular colloquialism, would be a more appropriate description for the people of Avoyelles Parish.

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