VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - One Valdosta State University (VSU) professor is working tirelessly to help a Native American tribe gain federal recognition.
“Defining the identity of a people is like nailing jelly to a wall," said VSU History Professor Dixie Haggard.
Haggard has been working with the Pascagoula Tribe of Southeast Mississippi.
“They’ve been denied their heritage, they’ve been denied opportunity for an equal education, they’ve been denied just the truth of their existence," said Haggard.
So that’s where Professor Haggard and his research comes into play.
“To help them gain federal acknowledgement with the federal government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs," said Haggard.
Acknowledgement that he said could mean access to healthcare, education, economic development and more.
The professor said the tribe only gets one shot at getting the process right.
“It’s hard to do," said Haggard.
Haggard said he’s been working for the past six years to compile all of the information and facts on the tribe’s 700 years of history for the government petition.
“I’ve had to go through Spanish and French documents, British documents, American documents. We’re looking at birth certificates, census records, school records," explained Haggard.
Haggard hopes all of his work will soon pay off.
“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. This will probably be my life’s work. Hopefully, it will be successful," said Haggard.
Haggard said his work is all a part of demonstrating that the heritage of the South is not just black and white, but that it also includes Native Americans.