Update, SE LA Native Americans: Why Don’t We Matter?

(7:30PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Cross posting from Kos again…

Why hasn’t something been done sooner to protect our community? Is it because the Island is a poor Indian community so it doesn’t matter what happens to us? Brenda Dardar Robichaux, tribal leader of the United Houma Nation

Things are pretty grim in the region–literally a place and a people that America has forgotten–flood and wind damage has devastated many areas that had survived previous storms. The anger in the tribal leaders’ words can be seen below.

See my previous diaries here, here and here.

First off, according to the Houma newspapers, power is slowly being restored to the hospitals and main services. Many areas remain without and are running on generators if they have them. These come with dangers as the Terrebonne Courthouse experienced a fire from a malfunctioning unit. The region is still under a boil water order. Most of the major roads are cleared, but many side roads are untouched. No streetlights work. Some grocery stores are open, but relief supplies are still being distributed at points around the region. A lot of the schools will remain closed due to electricity and roof damage. Looks like they are hoping to reopen sometime late next week once repairs by a company similar to Water Damage and Roofing of Cedar Park have been completed.

The state of Louisiana is lobbying for the federal government to declare a commercial fishery failure in the state:

State officials are lobbying U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez to declare a commercial fishery failure in the state. Such a move would send federal dollars down the bayou for impacted fishermen.

“By immediately making funds available, our fishermen can return to commerce and supply our nation with U.S.-caught shrimp, crab, oysters and finfish,” Gov. Jindal states in a Friday letter to Gutierrez.

As for how much damage Louisiana’s fisheries incurred, the department made an initial flyover of Thursday, but it yielded only a few visual reports. Moreover, only a small portion of the storm’s massive impact zone was viewed – from the eastern edge of the Atchafalaya Basin to Grand Isle and through Lake Des Allemands.

This designation is authorized under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and allows immediate federal assis-tance to be mobilized to the state of Louisiana.

“As the largest producer of domestic seafood for our nation in the lower 48 states, restoration of Louisiana’s fisheries, fisheries infrastructure and habitat is critical to our nation’s economy as well as to the families in our state who have made a living in the fishing industry, some for generations,” the delegation wrote in a separate let-ter to Gutierrez.

Hurricane Gustav is adding insult to injury, said U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, who represents Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. In the end, it could mean a number of people losing their jobs and livelihoods, he said.

“This disaster assistance we are requesting would help them repair their boats, replace equipment, and keep their businesses going,” Melancon said. “Commercial fishing is not just a major sector of south Louisiana’s economy, it is part of our way of life along the coast, and we must help our fishermen and women weather this storm.”

Hopefully, Louisiana can benefit from having Jindal as governor this time, as we all know that the Bush admin makes most of its decisions based on politics.

As for what Brenda Dardar Robichaux, tribal leader of the United Houma Nation, has to say, see below…it really speaks for itself…

Friday morning was the first day that I was allowed access to Isle de Jean Charles. A first responder brought me pictures the night before, but I had not yet seen the Island personally. So my husband Mike, my 11 year old daughter Felicite and I, wearing our rubber boots, headed to Isle de Jean Charles, one of the hardest hit communities. Island Road, the highway that leads to the settlement, lay covered with dead trout, drum and red fish. We parked our truck at the beginning of the Island and walked several miles to the end. The pictures did not prepare me for what I was about to see. We witnessed homes off their foundations that had floated on levees and piles of rubble that were once homes. After years of coastal erosion and without a good protection levee this community was very fragile. Hurricane Gustav showed no mercy. I became very angry that something had not been done sooner to protect the barrier islands that would have given my community a fighting chance. I remember stories told to me of how there were acres of land on which children played baseball, and pastures where horses roamed. To see the state of the Island now was overwhelming.

Of the 100 or so people who live on the Island we met with approximately 4 families. The rest had not yet returned to see the fate of their homes. We stopped at what was left of every home, walking through a foot of swamp mud and leaving contact information so that we could try to offer assistance.

As we approached the end of Island, we saw a stark contrast as camps owned my non residents were often left totally intact, without any visual signs of damage. We met one of the camp owners on his was out who exclaimed that although the hurricane was bad he thought it was going to be a lot worse. He must have repeated those thoughts a half dozen times. I could not believe what he was telling me. NOT THAT BAD…COULD HAVE BEEN A LOT WORSE…FOR WHOM? Surely not the residents of the Island! As we continued to walk the next camp owners spoke from the balcony of his perfectly intact camp and expressed with pride how his camp has withstood the last three hurricanes without any damage because it is built with 32,000 wood screws. Our people can’t afford HOMES built with 32,000 wood screws. So we are left with homes totally destroyed and may have to consider relocating, leaving the land we love while non residents with resources can build CAMPS that will sustain hurricanes force winds and coastal erosion. Why hasn’t something been done sooner to protect our community? Is it because the Island is a poor Indian community so it doesn’t matter what happens to us?

After we finished our assessment, we returned to Raceland to join tribal citizens, family and employees as they prepared the Old Store Relief Center. An afternoon rain shower proved too much for the hurricane damaged roof. The infamous Hurricane Katrina “blue tarp” will be put on the roof until it can be repaired. Residents are already looking for local roof repair services, similar to Trusted Roofing, that may be able to aid with repairs. You can learn more about roofing repair or installation options by clicking here. This isn’t a new sight since the storm hit. If you walk around, you can see the effect it has had on the residents and surrounding area, with many neighbors offering advice on services that could help with fixing your garage roof and other storm damage repairs. Some of these neighbors have had to reach out to these services for their own homes since they were heavily damaged during the storm. For roof damage, neighbors may have had to use local contractors similar to these roofing contractors westminster co have in order to make their homes habitable once again. Others had to contend with water damage and other types of destruction that ruined their homes.

Wow…those are words that echo in my head…Why hasn’t something been done sooner to protect our community? Is it because the Island is a poor Indian community so it doesn’t matter what happens to us?

Can we answer her question and be honest with ourselves? Is it because, like so many poor communities in America, especially those of minority groups, that it is easier to ignore them than to spend the time and money to help them out? Don’t they matter as much as the rest of us? I mean, really what the hell is wrong with our society that we don’t give a damn about poor people? I suppose some conservative will say that in a global marketplace peoples will just have to adjust to changing circumstances in the economy. But how can you tell that to a Native American tribe that has been there for centuries? And how much responsibility should white people have for this? Our cities, both large and small, have enjoyed relatively flood-free decades due to the containment of the natural cycle of the Mississippi River. We’ve enjoyed the benefits of the crops grown in the MS river valley and the trade that plies its waters. But at what cost?

Of course, McCain, who made a big show of support for the region so he could look presidential has conveniently moved on…no mention, of course, was made during his long speech that was all about him anyway…Bush cared more about the offshore oil drilling and that he didn’t look like an idiot again. Obama continues to curtail his campaigning there, asking donors to give to the Red Cross. Maybe he or Biden can find their way to Houma next time they are there.

As for the other tribal communities, the latest I have found is from 9/3:

Second Chairman Donald Dardar and Chairman Charles “Chuckie” Verdin have traveled through the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Community documenting visible damage to each home. The assessment is not good. Tribal leaders report that the damage to the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Community by Hurricane Gustav is worse than the damage caused by Rita and Katrina in 2005. Almost every house in lower Pointe-au-Chien has water (from flooding and/or wind damage) and/or wind damage. Some houses are totally destroyed; some homes were moved or pushed off of their blocks by the wind/rain. Our tribal building fell off of the blocks and many resources within the building were destroyed. Thankfully, the two houses built by the Mennonite Disaster Service after the 2005 hurricane season withstood the storm.

It appears that the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Community, not protected by a levee, received a huge onslaught of water and mud that rushed in and, perhaps rushed out, causing houses to be pushed, picked up, and moved. As of today, the pumps in lower Pointe-au-Chien were still pumping water out of the community. Tribal leaders have been in contact with the neighboring Indian community, Isle a Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha. Chief Naquin of Isle a Jean Charles has reported that the Island is still under water because the pumps failed.

Tribal members would like to start cleaning up, but there is no water in the Community to allow for tribal members to begin the clean up process. It is unknown when water or power might be available. Lafourche Parish was working today to clear the mud off of Oak Pointe Road to make the road passable. Tribal leaders expect most tribal members to return to asses the damage to their homes by Saturday.

Further complicating the situation, Second Chairman Donald Dardar believes that the local fishermen, who rely on the shrimping season, will not have that source of income this season. Price’s Factor owned by tribal member, Price Billiot and other factories in Terrebonne Parish were impacted by Gustav.

Other tribal members living in upper Pointe-aux-Chenes, Montegut, and Bourg also received wind damage from the storm.

An initial assessment reveals that tribal members need water, generators, fans, cleaning supplies, towels, tarps, building supplies, window units, hygiene products, diapers, formula, and nonperishable food items. WE ALSO NEED A LEVEE!


  1. Assuming Obama is elected, assuming we get a Dem Congress who is willing to tackle the real challenges ahead of us … there are still the vulnerable who will be forgotten unless we make sure and remind our representatives of stories like this.

    And it is frustrating, because what happens to folks in Houma does impact the rest of us, only in our present culture we are told there is no connection, we all stand alone.

    That is a lie.  We are interdependent.  And if we don’t look out for the most vulnerable in our society we all will pay a very high price.

    Thanks for keeping up with this story, dizzydean.

  2. Some of the models show landfall close enough to bring more storm surge, at the least, to the community late this week.

    Thank you dizzydean for these essays. If you have knowledge of what us non-government entities (real people) can do to help, please post it! Money, food, manpower, whatever; get it out here.

Comments have been disabled.