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Sep 24, 2012 6:48 AM by AP

Tribe's new principal chief: unify, educate

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) - Unity and education can help bring federal acceptance that the Atakapa-Ishak tribe is a living entity, says its new principal chief.

Edward Chretien Jr., who became the principal chief of the tribe in May, says he has applied for federal acknowledgement of the tribe, which lives in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas.

The tribe is recognized but not acknowledged by the federal, Louisiana and Texas governments, meaning the tribe is extinct in the eyes of the government, he said.

Chretien held his first gathering - an information session for Atakapans and interested community members - on Saturday, the American Press reported. Chretien brought tribal artifacts and informational pamphlets.

Chretien said the tribe has around 1,800 registered members.

"We have people that are scattered about that I want to reunite. I need to unify my people," he said.

He said he also wants to teach his people their history.

Historically, the Atakapas lived on the Northeast shore of Lake Charles in Calcasieu Parish. The parish took its name from a river that in turn was named for a chief in the early 1800s, whose name meant "Crying Eagle," according to the parish website.

Chretien said chiefs since then have all been "Chief Crying Eagle," and he keeps that tradition: "We have to continue living in the native way and continue honoring the previous chiefs. I have to carry his name to honor him, not myself,"

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