The Natchitoches Fish Hatchery is a built environment, yet still a combination Natural Resources and Heritage Resources site.  Hatchery Manager Karen Kilpatrick introduced the MAHR (Masters of Arts in Heritage Resources) class to the history and inner-workings of the hatchery.

The Hatchery has been in operation since the early 1930s. Some 164,000,000 fish have been raised in its 53 ponds, each about .8 acres.  It is the third largest public hatchery in the southeast.  The hatchery has raised over 16 species, but currently focuses on the following categories:

1.) Recreation- Which includes largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, and channel catfish

2.)Restoration- These include striped bass, paddlefish, alligator, and snapping turtle

3.) Recovery- These are threatened and endangered species like the Pallid Sturgeon, and the Louisiana Pearl shell mussel

A small aquarium and museum is on-site. In addition to raising fish, the site conducts environmental education, cultural heritage education (including events on Caddo culture), and special events.

About ten years ago, an American Indian employee of the hatchery brought forth concerns about the desecration of the Caddo burial grounds.  The hatchery responded with a day of reconciliation and prayer, followed by a much higher level sensitivity to interpreting the cultural history of the Caddo village and burials that the hatchery sits on. The site is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Smithsonian has agreed to repatriate. I have details of the sequence of events from year 2000 to present in my field notes, but choose not to publish them here. More recently the Hatchery unveiled the Caddo Memorial Plaza. Karen Kilpatrick shared a slideshow that included a lot of information, including Winslow Walker’s excavation including Caddo horse burials.

Next, Regional Archaeologist Jeff Girard met us. He pointed out the location of his dig, which included a prehistoric site on the hatchery grounds that he excavated in 2007. It was apparently NOT associated with the earlier Caddo excavation. Girard began by giving us background of Winslow Walker’s excavation and the “direct historical method” (cf Bureau of American Ethnology; John Swanton). The site included a layer of dark soil associated with habitation, broken pottery and very few features. Girard used a water screening method, with flotation tank. This preserved plant remains and lightweight objects that would have otherwise been lost.  He found a high concentration of fish, turtle and deer remains, as well as hickory/ walnut, pecan shells, maize and persimmon. The pottery he found resembled pottery of Central Louisiana rather than Caddo. The excavation was near a proposed Caddo repatriation plot, so that’s all the detail I care to relay in this public setting. The meeting with Girard was very informative. I look forward to any opportunity to learn from him in the future.

This site visit, including the interaction with Karen Kilpatrick and Jeff Girard, is not typical of what public users (tourists) would experience. I am grateful for that, but it makes the visit difficult to translate to public end-users’ expectations. In any event, a visit to the hatchery is well worth it. There is a knowledgeable director, small but nice aquarium, museum and learning center, and friendly staff. Their website at http://www.fws.gov/natchitoches/ needs improvement, and if they continue down the road of working cultural resources into their mission they should work to acquire a staff dedicated to public interpretation and more aggressively promote visitation.

Publications of FWS on Natchitoches Hatchery and Caddo:

http://library.fws.gov/Pubs2/nativeamerican01.pdf

http://www.fws.gov/eddies/pdfs/EddiesSummer2008.pdf

http://www.fws.gov/southeast/SoutheasternCurrents/archives/2009/2009February.pdf