This blog was written by Rosina Philippe of the Plaquemines Parish Grand Bayou Village in Louisiana. Elder Philippe is descended from the Atakapa-Ishak/Chawasha Tribe, tracing their inhabitation of coastal Louisiana far earlier than when the European explorers arrived in the area. Elder Philippe speaks frequently at universities and conferences nationwide and publishes accounts of the challenges her village faces.
“The Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw in Louisiana will be relocating with the help of $48 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.”
Wow! I was amazed and delighted, when I read this announcement. I celebrated the receipt of this award with Chief Albert Naquin and the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi Chitimacha Choctaw; a tremendous amount of work had gone into translating their “vision” of resettlement and sustainability onto the printed pages of the “Proposal for Resettlement” application.
The vision of resettlement for IdJC, not only addresses the need to preserve physical life, but the ‘life of a culture’; as an Indigenous person I understand the necessity of this. Life encompasses more than the physical for Native peoples; if community is lost, if traditions are not practiced and passed on, then we lose our true selves; and what was passed to you as a ‘Sacred Trust’ will be lost forever and the resulting lifeway of existence will only be a half-life, leading to cultural genocide and extinction.
Chief Albert Naquin and his people came together with the Lowlander Center group and worked tirelessly, sacrificing time, sleep and resources to put the application together. This was not the first time the Chief and his people had tried for resettlement funding. Many prayers were said, the outcome was uncertain but they had to try again, so much depended on a favorable outcome. There were others who saw the application process and the competing applicants as being too daunting to even submit a proposal of their own, so they did nothing. In this I am reminded of an old proverb, ‘Many start the race, but the rewards go to those who finish it.’
The world is facing the challenges of climate change and is looking for solutions of how to resettle at-risk coastal populations as we deal with rising water.*
I must applaud HUD and the Rockefeller Foundation and all of the contributors for believing in and funding the IdJC-BCC’s proposal. They have been added to my list of heroes, they saw the vision outlined in the proposal and believed; they ‘got it’.
The Proposal for resettlement and sustainability is ground-breaking and it will serve as THE model for future resettlement and sustainability on a global scale. The world is watching the implementation of this proposal. This is why it is imperative that the funding for the proposal that was presented and approved, remain intact and is applied as intended; to do less will destroy the integrity of the proposed resettlement and I fear will lead to a failed attempt at what could prove to be the pinnacle of the global resettlement and sustainability model. The funding ($48 million) will start Phase I of two phases of the resettlement of this brave Tribal community, every dollar is important to the success of this process.
It is important that they get it right; not only for themselves but for everyone else who will be looking over their shoulders and are facing or will be facing the same problems in the not so distant future. The small island Tribe of Isle de Jean Charles will lead the way; for all of us. May the Creator be their guide.
To learn more see the resettlement website: www.coastalresettlement.org
*”Can’t Stop the Water”, a documentary film I recommend for viewing.