Tanner Menard of the Atakapa-Ishak

“I'm saying that there's like an Indigenous intelligence that has been brought into the world, and that we can use our Indigenous ingenuity to figure out how to establish new relationships, but we shouldn't be held back by, like, this is how you do things and this is how it was way back when, because we have to figure out how to adapt to this very strange time.” 

--Tanner Menard


Tanner Menard (he/they) is a member and sometime Tribal Councilperson of the Atakapa-Ishak Nation of Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas. They are a Louisiana Creole of Ishak, French, Acadian, Celtic, and Miꞌkmaq ancestry. Originally from Charon, Louisiana, in Vermilion Parish, Tanner currently resides in Flagstaff, Arizona, where they are a graduate student working towards an M.F.A. at Northern Arizona University. They are a poet, musician, composer, recording artist, and preserver of Indigenous knowledge. Tanner is both a Kundalini Yoga instructor and a traditional Louisiana traiteur. Their music combines both ambient sounds and classical training to create soundscapes paired with poetry and spoken word reflections.  In their interview they discuss the place of mixed-ethnicity people in Louisiana culture, what it is like to live in Native communities outside of Louisiana, Indigenous spiritual practices, and the application of Indigenous thought to contemporary issues.

Atakapa-Ishak Nation of Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas

With a traditional territory stretching from Vermilion Bay to Galveston Bay, and encompassing places such as Lafayette and Lake Charles, Louisiana, the Ishak, whose name translates as “the human beings” or more literally, “those who have been born,” are a people who traditional culture includes prairie bison hunters, swamp dwellers, and coastal communities. The Ishak have often been known by the exonym “Atakapa,” literally “man eater” in the Choctaw and related languages. The name likely does not refer to literal cannibalism in the tribe, but to the specter of being enslaved by the Ishak, which was known as man eating. Ishak ancestry is common among Creole and Acadian peoples who live in traditional Ishak territory. Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in the traditional language of the Ishak, Ishakkoy, which has been formerly and incorrectly known as “Atakapan.” This resurgence has been spurred on by a revised dictionary of the language.

In the 1990’s the tribe was reorganized under Chief Hubert Singleton, who also self-published several volumes about the tribe and its members. There are currently multiple organized groups of Ishak in Louisiana and Texas. Ishak culture can be experienced in zydeco music, with many traditional zydeco musicians having recognized ancestry in the tribe. The Ishak continue their struggle for federal recognition and for cultural preservation.

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In collaboration with Ida Aronson, Jeffery Darensbourg, and Hali Dardar


In collaboration with Sam Lawson Mingo and Hali Dardar

In collaboration with Sam Lawson Mingo and Hali Dardar

In collaboration with Jay Mercado and Hali Dardar