Coastal Tribes Appeal for Help After Ike and Gustav
Lower Bayou Indian Communities
Tribal Communities Dealt Blows
after Gustav and Ike Hit Gulf Coast.
second time in three years, tribes in South Louisiana face back-to-back catastrophic hurricanes. In South Louisiana, the lower bayou Indian communities of Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe, the Isle de Jean
Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha, the Bayou Lafourche Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha, and the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha
face tough times. Three years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita dealt devastating
blows, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike ravaged the small fishing communities. Hurricane
Gustav destroyed tribal buildings, tribal homes, and left some tribal members homeless.
Some members are living in homes that are not habitable. Hurricane Ike,
a category 2 storm passing 275 miles to the West, caused a 6-8 foot storm surge in lower Pointe-au-Chien and Isle de Jean
Charles. Almost every home in the tribal communities has some damage, and the
tribal communities of the Grand Caillou/Dulac and Bayou Lafourche Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha are also facing similar problems. Tribal leaders assessed that more damage was caused to their communities during Ike
and Gustav than during the 2005 hurricane season.
to the tribal communities results from years of neglect. Unfortunately, the Pointe-au-Chien
Indian Community and the Isle de Jean Charles Indian Community are exposed to the elements.
With no levee and no coastal restoration projects planned to protect the Community, the Pointe-au-Chien, the Isle de
Jean Charles, and other communities, these small tribal communities face hard times.
Their current situation was exasperated when the Mississippi River was rerouted, the barrier islands were not protected,
and the oil companies arbitrarily and systematically cut canals resulting in increased salt water intrusion. Because the Terrebonne Barrier Islands are disappearing, the tribal homelands of the Pointe-au-Chien and
the Isle a Jean Charles Indian Tribes are now the barrier Islands, resulting in more damage and flooding during each hurricane
three weeks, tribal communities finally have electricity and water to start the clean-up process. Some houses, however, cannot be repaired or cleaned. Because
it took so long to start the clean-up process, some families face mold and mildew. Insurance
companies told tribal members to wait to clean up until they can investigate. "It's
a big mess," said Chief Albert Naquin of Isle de Jean Charles, "and we are going to need a lot of help to clean it up."
Charles Verdin of the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe is concerned about the impacts the storms will have on fishermen, who have
been unemployed for the past month—the height of the shrimping season. Most
families work during this time period and save funds to last throughout the winter, with the loss of their stored food supply
from their freezers, the loss of additional food supply and income, and rebuilding, this is going to be a tough winter.
officials traveled to Washington D.C. this week to request funding for the State, but the Louisiana tribes need community-wide
rebuilding relief to sustain their communities. In the past, relief funds for
rebuilding and repair have not been sufficient and tribal members who should have benefited from state-wide programs for rebuilding
have been denied assistance because tribal members live on "family property." Further,
the State provided a white paper on coastal restoration needs, which focused primarily on already funded projects and repair
of levees that were breached. Tribal burial grounds and traditional hunting and
fishing areas are also left exposed and tribal leaders fear will ultimately be lost to the Gulf of Mexico.
of federal status impacts the ability of the tribes to receive aid from the federal government or from having a real voice
in recovery and relief in the South Louisiana region. Through the Louisiana Coastal
Tribes Coalition, bayou Indian tribes are working together on emergency response and rebuilding efforts. After the 2005 hurricanes, the LCTC was able to coordinate with the Mennonite Disaster Service to build
five homes in four tribal communities. LCTC is coordinating clean-up and rebuilding
efforts across four Indian communities. The Tribes are hoping to coordinate long-term
recovery and coastal restoration efforts in order to protect the culture and way of life of the tribal people of South Louisiana. At the same time, the bayou tribes need to raise over $500,000 to pay for experts
and research to assist in their petitions for federal acknowledgment which are due to the federal government soon. All fundraising efforts, however, have been impacted by these storms.
To learn how
to volunteer or to donate, please visit the www.lctci.com, or http://pactribe.tripod.com. Donations can be made directly to
the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe at PO Box 416, Montegut, LA 70377. The Louisiana
Environmental Action Network, www.leanweb.org., is working directly with the tribes to provide much-needed supplies. Only donations to the Coalition, the Coalition's member tribes, or organizations working
directly with the tribes, are guaranteed to reach those impacted.