Pointe-au-Chien Tribe has been living in lower Pointe-au-Chien along the Louisiana Gulf Coast for centuries. Pointe-au-Chien is the traditional village of our ancestors — primarily Chitimacha, but also Atakapas, Biloxi and Choctaw — all farmers, fishermen and hunters. Today the people continue to live off the land and the water by hunting alligators, fishing, and by catching shrimp, crabs and oysters. Farming sugarcane is no longer possible for us because of saltwater intrusion.
Now our land is disappearing. Our wetlands have almost disappeared totally. The marsh that extends out from the coast of Louisiana into the Gulf of Mexico was a rich habitat for shrimp, the most basic staple of life for the people, and our primary source of income (until the BP spill). Without the marsh, our people have no shrimping industry.
For years, the marsh was damaged by oil companies cutting canals into the marsh in order to build pipe lines to carry the oil drilled off our coast. Other canals were cut through the marsh for transporting their crews. Today, the marsh is only a fraction of the size it was, even when I was young.
Rebuilding the barriers islands would be the best solution to the problem of the disappearing wetlands. The barrier islands break the waves coming in from the Gulf, especially in times when storms are raging. In times past, we got flooded but never to the extent we are getting now. In the past, the indigenous people who lived on the Gulf Coast relied on the protection that the barrier islands provided.
Over the years, however, repeated hurricanes have washed out those islands in Louisiana. Unlike our neighboring states of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida our politicians did not chose to rebuild the barrier islands, and that lack of action is seriously threatening the life and livelihood of the people who live on the Coast.
Faced with the environmental crisis at hand, by forming First Peoples’ Conservation Council I feel we have a better chance at addressing some of our problems. We now have a seat at the table, which we did not have before. Working with the other tribes gives us all a stronger voice.
Because of federal, state and local policies, the Indians of our tribe were prevented from attending high school until the late 1960s and early 1970s. These policies had a tremendous impact on the ability of tribal members and the tribe as a whole to advance in areas of education, economics and health care.
Our tribe is in crisis because of the changing environment of the Louisiana wetlands. The water is rising and the wetlands have almost disappeared. The situation is made worse by corporations that exploited our environment in the past without regard for the impact on the habitat of our wildlife. The real solution, we believe, is to work with the natural environment and restore the barrier islands that are now covered by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The earth is our Mother, we know we should care for her.