John Mayeux of the Avogel
“We traveled because we made our living through trade...we knew how to behave as human beings. You know, how to relate to other people in their culture… and that trade language [Mobilian] certainly helped a lot. If it wasn't for that, I don't know how we could have done what we succeeded in doing.” --Chief John Mayeux
Milburn John Mayeux (he/him), known as Sitting Bear, the former Principal Chief of the Avogel Tribe of Louisiana until his retirement He is now Chief of the Bear Clan and a member of the tribal council. He was born in Cottonport and grew up in Moreauville and Simmesport, all in Avoyelles Parish. He currently lives south of Duson, Louisiana, in Lafayette Parish, and works as an interpretive guide at Vermilionville Living History Museum and Folklife Park in Lafayette. Chief Sitting Bear is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He is a retired schoolteacher and a Veteran of the United States Air Force.
In his Un-Recognized Stories interview, he discusses his nation’s role in trade between Indigenous Peoples, relations with other nations regionally, and the role of Indigenous languages.
The Avogel Tribe of Louisiana
Avogel means “the Flint People” or “the People of the Rocks,” a name that refers to this Indigenous Nation’s history of trading flint and other goods throughout the region. The Avogel have been based traditionally in the area of the Red River in Louisiana. The flint they traded, largely originating in present-day Arkansas, provided raw materials for arrowheads and other tools. Avoyelles Parish, a civil parish in Louisiana, takes its name from the Avogel, many of whom still live there. After colonization the Avogel continued their trading between nations, often serving as intermediaries between Europeans and Indigenous populations. Some Avogel became part of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, a federally recognized Indigenous Nation, but there is still a separate Avogel Tribe comprised of a few tightly knit families who preserve their traditional ways.
Mayeux, John Sitting Bear. The Avogel Tribe of Louisiana, vol. 1 (Self-published, 2004).
Read, William A. Louisiana Place Names of Indian Origin: A Collection of Words. Edited by George M. Riser (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008).
Swanton, John R. The Historic Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Adjacent Coast of the Gulf of Mexico (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1911).