Houma and the surrounding communities are steeped in the French and Cajun history of the region. Originally the region was settled by French and Spanish colonists who made their way south through Bayou Lafourche, and then later it was settled by Acadians (Cajuns). The Acadians had been expelled from Nova Scotia for their unwillingness to show reverence to the King and to abandon Catholicism for the Church of England. The number expelled was about 15,000 in number of which 3,000 settled in the region. As the French, Spanish, and Native American tribes began to mix, a unique Cajun culture was born.
The swampland around Houma was isolated from the rest of the United States well into the 1930s, thus outside influences such as radio and WWI patriotism failed to inspire the Cajuns to become more "Americanized". So the culture in this region persevered much longer than in cities on the border of Cajun country like Lake Charles or Baton Rouge. Such rich culture in Houma includes the French language, Cajun cuisine, and festivals such as Mardi Gras. That culture remains evident today and is the source of much tourism.
In the 1970s many South Vietnamese came over to Southern Louisiana to work as shrimpers, just as they had in Vietnam. A fairly significant portion of them settled in New Orleans and many settled in Houma as well. They are still seen at the docks shrimping as their families have for several decades.
Downtown Houma has been listed as a significant historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. It offers a downtown walking tour and attractions such as the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum, the Folklife Culture Center, the Regional Military Museum, Southdown Plantation, the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center, monuments to local armed forces, and local eateries.
Although Houma is quickly changing, many residents in the surrounding communities continue to make their living as their ancestors did. They are shrimpers, oystermen, crabbers, fishermen, and trappers, although more are beginning to work in occupations of the oil industry and ship building. As reported by records held by the United States Government Patent and Trademark Office, Houma, Louisiana was the site of the deepest oil well in Terrebonne Parish (name of sections in the State of Louisiana, often characterized in the name as "counties" in other States within the United States of America. At that time the United States Postal Service was delivering the mail at a one cent rate. Many long-standing traditions and lifestyles remain as part of the area's rich cultural history. Houma is also the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.
Tab Benoit's Voice of the Wetlands Music Festival, established in 2005, takes place in Houma, annually in October.