Native American Tribe in Louisiana soon to become Environmental Refugees

It seems that a second Native Tribe is going to have to be located.

First it was the Alaskan Kivalina, whose Island was not so much destroyed by sea level rise, but through loss of Sea Ice.

The frozen Sea Ice normally surrounds the Island in the Winter and Spring months, during times of stormy weather.

But the loss of Sea Ice, left the Island unprotected from storms, and suddenly, huge chunks of the Islands’ coastline started to fall

into the Ocean. The Kivalina people are being relocated by the US.

In Louisiana, the reality is all too specific. The Sea Level rise is taking away their homeland day by day.



From the Huffington Post’s Chris D’angelo


“What you see of the island now is just a skeleton of what it used to be,” Chris Brunet, a tribal council member and lifelong island resident, told The New York Times in a mini-documentary called Vanishing Island in 2014.

A recent federal grant, however, will allow the state-recognized tribe to resettle on higher ground, making it the first community of official climate refugees in the United States, according to Indian Country Today.

Karen Apricot New Orleans/Flickr
A photo from Isle De Jean Charles in southern Louisiana. A federal grant will allow the Native American community there to resettle on higher ground.

Late last month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded $1 billion for resilient infrastructure and housing projects as part of its National Disaster Resilience Competition. On the list is $52 million for the Isle de Jean Charles tribe to relocate to a “resilient and historically-contextual community,” HUD wrote.

Since the 1950s, the tribe has lost 98 percent of its land to rising sea levels, coastal erosion and flooding. Experts suspect the island will be completely submerged within 50 years, Houma Today reports.

Albert Naquin, chief of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians, has been fighting to secure funding for 13 years and said the money will allow the tribe to reestablish community, something that — like their historic island home — is being washed away.

I’m very, very excited,” Naquin told Indian Country Today. “Now we’re getting a chance to reunite the family. … They’re excited as well. Our culture is going to stay intact, [but] we’ve got to get the interest back in our youth.”

What was once a 22,000-acre island, however, has been reduced to a 320-acre strip. As of 2009, only 25 houses remained occupied, down from 63 only five years prior, according to a report by Northern Arizona University.

Pat Forbes, the executive director of the Louisiana Office of Community Development, said in a release that the tribe’s people are on the front line of Louisiana’s coastal land loss disaster.

“This $48 million grant,” she said, “will allow the state to help them resettle their entire community to a safer place with a minimum of disruption to livelihoods and lifestyles. Together, we’ll be creating a model for resettlement of endangered coastal communities throughout the United States.”