Thursday, January 22, 2015

Native American Tribes Are Fighting To Stop Their Land From Literally Disappearing

DULAC, LOUISIANA — Shortly after the sun rose over the southern coastal bayous of Louisiana, a group of United Houma Nation tribal members and environmental advocates, many of whom had just returned from fishing and crabbing trips, gathered to discuss a threat that looms larger every day. “The seas are rising and so are we,” they chanted at the end of a traditional ‘unity clap.’ The group came together on tribal lands that are quickly disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico — taking not only the ground beneath their feet but generations of culture and their traditional way of life.

One tribal artist described how her father’s medicine plants are dying from saltwater intrusion, while another worried that her community would migrate north and abandon the land where she once climbed trees as a young girl. Left with few protections and without recognition from the federal government, the tribal members’ agreed that their struggle has largely been ignored, leaving them no choice but to take matters into their own hands.

“They think we’re not going to fight back, but we have,” said Clarice Friloux, the outreach coordinator for the United Houma Nation who called herself an environmentalist “not by choice.”

The United Houma Nation and other Native American communities in the bayou region of Southern Louisiana are fighting a daily battle against the rising seawaters and disappearing land — a natural process which has been expedited over the last century by the dredging of tens of thousands of miles of wetlands for pipelines and navigation canals by oil and gas companies dating back to the 1930s.


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