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Times Picayune, Sept. 18, 2008
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Tribes need help now, and for future

Thursday, September 18, 2008
Sheila Stroup

When I asked Joel Waltzer what American Indians in the southernmost parts of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes need most right now, he thought for a moment.

"Their land is just disappearing," he said.

In 2005, residents were in the path of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Now, they're struggling to recover from Gustav and Ike.

"These folks have had a very difficult time," Joel said. "They're fishermen. They don't have a lot."

--- Ways to help ---

When Gustav swept through the little bayou towns on Sept. 1, it brought ferocious winds and a 6-foot storm surge.

"And the surge from Ike might have been even higher," Joel said.

Some of the families were still waiting for Road Home money to repair damage from the 2005 storms. Many had elevated and rebuilt their homes during the past three years.

"A lot of the homes that were elevated had sheetmetal roofs that were peeled back by Gustav," Joel said. "And I'm sure Ike blew off a lot of tarps."

The area is lacking electricity, adequate food and water, generators, cleaning and first-aid supplies, gutting and building equipment and volunteers.

"The people are going to need help cleaning up, repairing structures and putting roofs back on houses, and also replacing the things they lost," Joel said.

--- Coast is key ---

Joel is working with the nonprofit Louisiana Environmental Action Network to get aid where it's needed. This weekend, volunteers will gut houses, clean up debris and show they care.

"A lot of people have just lost everything," Joel said. "Right now, they need a little love."

These indigenous tribes were pushed to the very edges of Louisiana centuries ago. They moved south to escape the Spanish and then the Americans.

"They're strong, resilient people, but they're living on the fastest disappearing land mass anywhere," Joel said. "There needs to be a big push in the private and public sector to rebuild it and rebuild it smart."

In the short term, love and helping hands are what they need, but in the long term they need more: a little bit of our coast back.

. . . . . . .

Anyone wanting to assist with gutting and rebuilding efforts can coordinate through Joel Waltzer at or 504.430.0844. Tax-deductible donations can be made to the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe, P.O. Box 416, Montegut, LA 70377, or to the Louisiana Environmental Action Network's Gustav relief effort, at