This is the Press Release put out about the relocation to higher ground of the Jean Charles Choctaw Nation.
This week, after years of delays, confusion, and stress caused by Louisiana’s Office ofCommunity Development and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, some residents of Isle de Jean Charles and Tribal Citizens of the Jean Charles Choctaw Nation will begin moving into new houses in Schreiver, Louisiana. Funding for the move was allocated in2016 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in response to our Tribal community’s experiences of increasing risk to disaster and displacement and our Tribal leadership’s long-standing resettlement planning efforts. While we support our citizens’ individual choice to move to higher ground, the state of Louisiana’s approach to this resettlement has moved forward without meaningful consultation with, or the explicit consent from, our Tribal leadership. This is concerning not only for our community, but, as indicated in a recent complaint to the UN on the Rights of Indigenous People in Addressing Climate-Forced Displacement, for many other nations and communities around the country who also face environmental injustices and climate change impacts. “If you believe that the resettlement of Isle de Jean Charles was successful, you’re headed in thewrong direction,” Elder Chief Albert Naquin shared with an audience at a recent convening by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Moving people while trampling upon our Tribe’s inherent sovereignty and rights to self-determination and cultural survival must not be viewed as a “success” for future public climate adaptation investments.static1.squarespace.com
The move was forced as the original 22,400 acre island has been reduced to 340 acres due to rising seas, hurricane damage causing erosion and the effects of climate change on a barrier island. The fossil fuel industry also contributed to the demise of the island. It only got worse when the state Office of Community Development got involved.
The Isle de Jean Charles in southern Louisiana was once a thriving 22,400-acre homeland of the Isle de Jean Charles Tribe1 (In 2022, officially renamed the Jean Charles Choctaw Nationbut our home has been diminished to a 320-acre skeleton of what it was due to the environmental impacts of regional development and fossil fuel resource extraction activities. Tribal leadership has long-pursued mitigation efforts and avenues from the local to state to federal to international governance levels to protect our Tribe in-place and save our ancestral homelands. However, after being cut out of federal hurricane protection infrastructure two-decades ago, our Tribal Council had to make the difficult decision that to sustain our community and culture, the only choice left was to pursue Tribal resettlement, to restore our whole community, preserve our culture and place, and provide a safe and viable place for our Tribal citizens to continue to thrive for generations to come. In 2016, in large part as a result of our contributions to Louisiana’s application to the National Disaster Resilience Competition, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the state of Louisiana $48.3 million to assist with our Tribe’s resettlement. After three-years of negotiations between the Tribal Council and the state of Louisiana’s Office of Community Development, our Tribe’s plans – for which the state received funding – were no longer honored, and our rights to sovereignty and self-determination ignored.
This settlement does not meet the needs of the community to enable them to maintain and build their culture and community,
Our Tribal resettlement was intended to serve as a living and active bridge from our ancestral island to a sustainable future for our Tribe. At the moment, it does not accomplish these essential aims and without further support for our Tribe as a whole community, this is more cultural genocide. We have worked towards our Tribal Reunification for over 20-years. While the opening of the state’s resettlement – the New Isle – is underway, we continue our on-going efforts to see our Tribal resettlement and reunification vision through, for our people and cultural survival for generations to come. For more information regarding our Tribe’s Resettlement and struggle for Cultural Survival, visit our website, http://www.isledejeancharles.com/our-resettlement.
I could say what else is new in our handling of the Native Tribes. But I do know that the island they were on is no more and with the effects of climate change and our state working to mitigate the effects while still promoting the fossil fuel industry this is probably the best that could be done. It just shows the need for inviting the Native Tribes into consultation on environmental matters.