“It started here first.”
So said D’Iberville and Biloxi officials Saturday as they re-enacted the landing of Pierre le Moyne, sieur d’Iberville, a French-Canadian explorer, on Ship Island. The city of D’Iberville was named after the explorer.
Historians believe d’Iberville and his brother and fellow explorer Jean-Baptiste le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, landed on the shores of D’Iberville 318 years ago, well before any other Europeans.
Saturday’s re-enactment was part of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mississippi’s statehood and a prelude to Biloxi’s Bicentennial Celebration South festivities, March 31-April 1 in Gulfport.
But history took a turn for the absurd as well, as Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, dressed as a pirate, crossed Back Bay to crash the party of D’Iberville Mayor Rusty Quave, who was dressed in the attire of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribesmen of the time.
“D’Iberville’s landing started the whole thing,” Gilich said. “It started right here. Before Mississippi, before Louisiana.”
“We’ve been here a lot longer than the state of Mississippi,” Quave said.
The two mayors joined actors, young and old, who portrayed French explorers and pirates landing at what was then a marshland near present-day D’Iberville Marina.
“We’re here showing off our heritage and the pride of our city,” R.J. Deno with the D’Iberville Historical Society said.
Two men in Spanish Royal Artillery uniforms fired off a cannon into Back Bay. Another group of explorers aimed and fired their muskets in the same direction.
The officials and re-enactors welcomed special guests to help celebrate the day: Bruno Racine of the Longueuil (Quebec) Historical Society; Louise Blais, consul general of Canada in Atlanta; and Albert Naquin, chief of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, the original settlers of the city of D’Iberville.
Longueuil, Canada, near Montreal, is D’Iberville’s sister city.