...when I heard that the Coushatta Native American Tribe of Louisiana called the Consulate asking for a meeting, I hate to say it, but my first thought was “wow, never a dull moment!” And boy was I right..but not in the way I was expecting, but rather, it was the beginning of a series of events that exceeded even my wildest expectations.
In addition to their beautiful casino, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana holds nearly 700 acres of land in Louisiana, and operates a beautiful resort including a world-class golf course, stunning accommodations, and yes, a Vegas-style casino with over 2,800 slots, and 70+ table games giving everyone ample opportunities to(hopefully) yell out: JACKPOT!
The relationship that has been built over the last two years between Israel and the Coushatta is nothing short of amazing. And it all started with that phone call. The Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, Kevin and David Sickey, informed the Consul General (at the time Asher Yarden) that they wished to proclaim an Affirmation of Friendship between their tribe and the State of Israel. Hm, where are they going with this, we asked ourselves?
The Coushatta went on to tell us that they felt a special bond with the Jewish people and Israelis, who, like the native Americans, have faced centuries of discrimination, relocation, and prejudice, all while feeling a strong sense of nationalism, and a desire to return to their historical homeland, a homeland to which they feel a strong spiritual connection. I am happy to say that just as the Jewish people returned to their historical homeland in 1948, the members of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana returned to theirs in 1972, receiving state recognition, followed by US federal recognition the following year, in 1973.
After hearing this pitch, I. Was. Floored. What an incredible parallel to draw, one that hadn’t even remotely occurred to me before. We were in, and we had NO idea what we were getting ourselves into. And I mean that in the best possible way.
What followed was a series of meetings leading up to a huge event to take place on their reservation in Louisiana entitled Affirmation of Friendship 2008, during Israel’s 60th year of independence. Since this wonderful event nearly two years ago, the friendship and the bond between not only our office, but the State of Israel and the Coushatta has only grown. The economic office for the US Southern region continues to work with them on developing trade and agricultural opportunities between Israel and the Tribe, their leadership has since visited Israel, and a close friendship remains between our staff and theirs. May 14th is now a Coushatta national holiday recognizing Israel’s independence and, more than anything, it just goes to show that no matter how disconnected two peoples seem, with a positive attitude and a true desire for friendship, anything can be accomplished.
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