Photo by: 2010 Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) and Eco-Steward Evan Ponder, a Wetlands Advocate and Friend
Featured in: Nov 2012 – Jan 2013 issue, “Hope for Eco-Activists: Discovering an Environmental Faith”
Cultural Reinvigoration and Political Efficacy
Coastal communities in Louisiana are at high risk due to human manipulation of the land through oil and gas exploration and production. As a result, the land is vanishing and communities that still stand are severely threatened by rising waters and exposure to storms. The communities are tightly knit places where people have shared their lives, their faith, and their dreams for hundreds of years. Many were forced to the undesirable areas of the swamps, and others chose the region for its protection.
As these communities are challenged by oil disasters, climate change effects, and increasing storm damage, they have mobilized in mutual support. Since the oil disaster more than two years ago, community members have traveled to Prince William Sound to learn from the region’s communities on how to survive. They have also hosted Alaska Indigenous community members who are challenged with similar issues of climate change and becoming environmental refugees.
Through the richness of collaborative learning, action, prayer, and fellowship, the Louisiana communities have been gathering together for cultural reinvigoration activities. Four different tribes, along with Cajun and Afro-American communities meet regularly to discuss such issues as global extraction concerns, food sovereignty, and ethnobotany as well as cultural genocide while beading, weaving, and drum making.
A recent event hosted by the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw gathered community members from the Isle de Jean Charles, Pointe au Chien, and Grand Bayou-Atakapa tribes to make healing drums in conjunction with tribal friends from Fond du Lac and Eyak tribes.
While making traditional elk skins healing drums, the communities talked about recent testimonies to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, The First Stewards Commission, and the most current work on food policy as it relates to coastal land/fisheries loss.
——Kristina Peterson, Pastor of Bayou Blue Presbyterian Church and Senior Researcher for the University of New Orleans’ Center for Hazards Assessment and Technology.