Native American Ministries

The Dulac Community Center begin in the early 20th century as the church reached out to help the population in lower Terrebonne Parish. The center serves an area that has a Native American population. Clanton Chapel UMC is located at the site. Visit the Dulac Community Center Website.

HISTORY

Mr. George DeForest and his wife, from Akron, Ohio, had been sent by the Missionary Council to work with the Native Americans at Dulac. Miss Ella Hooper went to help them out. They would travel by boat to Dulac, teach the remainder of the day, stay overnight, teach the next morning, and then return to their home. They did this because it took quite a while to row the boat the necessary four miles each way. The community of Dulac was two miles below the end of the road. They had been having Methodist preaching services since 1912 whenever a preacher, usually A.D. Martin, could make it. In addition, Miss Ella Hooper had been visiting them for years to hold Bible classes and distribute clothes and other goods. So many of the Indians were already familiar with the Methodists. Mrs. DeForest discovered that Miss Hooper had a sister, Wilhelmina, who taught school in Rosedale. She sent her an invitation to come for two weeks "to teach until the trapping season started." She came for a two week visit and ended up staying 33 years, until her retirement in 1965. She didn't even receive a salary until 1953. She later said, "I was not a missionary or a radical; I was a trained teacher, and there was a need for a trained teacher. So I stayed." With her sister in charge, Ella went back to MacDonell.

Miss Wilhelmina was known as "Miss Hoppy" to the children. She was thin and wore glasses, just like her sister Ella. Over the years, her skin bacame tanned from her many walks along the bayou and her English had a tint of a French accent.

The first class began on October 1, 1932. There were 75 students, ages six through twenty. Everyone was in the first grade, since none of them had ever been to school before. Classes were held in an old-fashioned, high ceiling overseer's home that Miss Hooper taught and lived in. Sometimes, classes were held out on the porch or in the yard under an oak tree. Besides teaching school, the Methodist workers would teach religious classes twice a week. The school was for all Indians, regardless of their religious beliefs. Miss Wilhelmina Hooper was assisted in the early days by a Miss Hoffpauir.

Miss Ella Hooper went to the school board to get their help. Indians weren't allowed in public school at that time. They asked Miss Hooper to survey the area to see how many Indians were involved. She found 300 possible students, only 75 of which were attending the Methodist school. The school board suggested that Miss Wilhelmina Hooper continue her operation of the Methodist school, which she did for twenty-two years.

Deaconess Mary Beth Littlejohn was appointed by the Council to replace Mrs. DeForest at Dulac in 1936. With Miss Wilhelmina,they were reaching 65 families, a total of 50 people. The work was divided into three areas: the church, the school, and the social service and rural extension work. The church membership was 50 in 1936. Worship services, given in French, were conducted once a month by a local French preacher.
 

Clanton Chapel UMC
Clanton Chapel 1936

  After holding services in private homes and outdoors for years, Dulac finally received a church, named Clanton Chapel. Mr. T.G. Clanton, of Shreveport, provided the funds to build it. Bishop Dobbs and others were on hand for the dedication in May. An Indian feast was served afterwards. Most members of Clanton's Chapel in Dulac would go to church by boat. Services were held at 2:30 on Sunday afternoon. They had to wait for the arrival of the pastor from Houma. For the next few decades, the Dulac church would be served by the pastor stationed at Houma Heights in Houma. Kirby Verret, a local pastor, is now the pastor of Clanton Chapel.


The school program is the same as that of public schools. The day school for children had an enrollment of 40, and the night school for adults had an enrollment of 15. The enrollment was low this year because the bridge across Bayou Dulac had been out for a year, and the students couldn't get to the school. Afternoons were devoted to "extension" type schools for smaller communities down the bayous.

The social work extends to the 360 Indians within a three mile radius. They also made occasional visits to families further down the bayous. They brought clothes, medical help, and other items.

By 1938, the day school enrollment at the Dulac Indian Mission was up to 60. Day school was held from 7:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. The night school enrollment was 30. It was held from 6:30 to 8:30 at night. The church held worship services twice a month, Sunday school on Sunday mornings, Bible school on Sunday evenings, and a community sing once a month. The social activities included a Boys' and Girls' Industrial Club, a Young Folk Club, house-to-house visiting, a community library, and a game room.

In 1942, property (a piece of "Goat Island") was purchased for the Dulac Mission to enlarge the work in the area.

In 1950, a school building was finally constructed in Dulac for the Indians. Miss Wilhelmina Hooper now had a school to teach in. It has already been mentioned how Miss Ella Hooper came down to Dulac to help her sister. Miss Ione Gandy, of the MacDonell School, also came down to Dulac to help with the new school.

The Terrebonne Parish school board had finally agreed to build a school for the Indians. It was built in the summer of 1953 in front of the Methodist school. It had five classrooms and a kitchen. Later, in 1954, four more classrooms were added. The Methodist school at Dulac was converted into a communitycenter. It provided a kindergarten, adult literacy classes, religious instruction, dances, motion pictures, visitation, teenage and craft programs.

In 1960, a new Community Center was completed at Dulac. The open house was held on September 18, 1960. The director of the Community Center at that time was Mr. H. Carl Brunson. A dedication service was held. Rev. Rickey gave the invocation. Rev. Ira Robinson, pastor of Houma Heights and Dulac, rendered the benediction. The sermon was presented by Bishop Aubrey Walton. As Bishop Walton said, the Center was designed for "the development of Christian character ... to the broadening of mental horizons and the deepening of knowledge, that young and old may be awakened and informed." After thirty-three years, Miss Wilhelmina Hooper retired from the Dulac Indian Mission in 1965. The Woman's Society of Christian Service presented her with an honorary life membership.

Though the Center was damaged by Hurricane Juan in 1985, it was rebuilt. Other hurricanes have done damage over the years, but through the efforts of the membership and volunteers it still serves the community.