For the past year, maybe year and a half, I’ve been working on translating, into English, a 112 page manuscript of Louisiana Creole folk remedies collected in the Creole dialect by graduate student Charles Bienvenu (for LSU) in the 20’s, from Saint Martin Parish, LA. I’ve also been working on building an accurate and detailed materia medica based on the individual plants and compounds listed in the remedies.
I’m not finished (or at least in the last stages of finishing) and I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with this work. The original dissertation will be out of copyright in the next few years. In theory I could do some more research and have an interesting, publishable work. But, I don’t feel right about doing this.
For me it’s been such an interesting project. I started this work because of my interest in Ozark folk healing and medicine. The crossovers between the Creole/Cajun remedies and the Ozark ones are numerous and fascinating to look at. But I’m not Creole. As far as I know I have no ancestors from Louisiana even.
This doesn’t mean I can’t publish this work, plenty of researchers write and publish about areas they don’t have actual, physical connections to. I’ve been thinking and thinking it over. Why do I feel bad about this? Oh, there it is, in the back of my mind. This work belongs to the people who birthed it in the first place. This work belongs to the Creole people, it’s their medicine. Bienvenu collected their stories, their healing traditions. These aren’t my traditions, I’ve known that since the beginning of this project.
So, in the end I’m now trying to find writers and researchers, interested in Creole folklore or medicine, who might really benefit from this research. As far as I know there are very few people who know about Bienvenu’s original research. There are only a few microfilms of it, and no print copies, that I know of. It might be a long shot, but I’ve felt for a while now that I really need to reach out and find someone, or some people, who would truly get a great deal out of using and building upon this work.
All this to say that if you’re Louisiana Creole, or of Louisiana Creole descent and are interested in this research please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to share this work with you.
Right now I’m not sending it to everyone who asks for it, because I feel like these traditions need to be protected, at least to some extent, from corruption and appropriation. Coming from an often misunderstood and misinterpreted folk healing tradition myself I understand how important it is to be discerning when dealing with sensitive cultural material.