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‘American Diagnosis’: As Climate Crises Batter the Bayou, Houma People Are Being Displaced

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Episode 11: “Climate Displacement, Cultural Resilience”

Lanor Curole is a member of the United Houma Nation. She grew up in Golden Meadow, a small bayou town in Southern Louisiana. The impacts of repetitive flooding in the area forced her to move farther north.

Louisiana’s coastal wetlands lose about 16 square miles of land each year. This land loss, pollution from the 2010 BP oil spill, and lingering devastation from Hurricanes Katrina and Ida are pushing many Houma people out of their homes.

Since 1985, the United Houma Nation has been seeking federal tribal recognition status. Without this status, the tribe has fewer resources to respond to the climate crisis.

“Our people are on that front line, but we don’t have a seat at that table,” Curole said.

Gaining federal recognition would grant the Houma access to the Indian Health Service and would allow the tribe to work directly with federal agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency when storms strike.

“It’s not like Willy Wonka’s ‘golden ticket’ … but I think it does open some additional doors that are definitely closed to us right now,” Curole said.

Episode 11 explores the Houma people’s efforts to preserve culture in the face of the climate crisis.

A digital illustration in watercolor and pencil. It is a nighttime scene. The artwork shows an off-shore oil rig, drawn in bright red pencil, out at sea. The water is dark black with hints of reflection from a full moon overhead. In the center of the image there are two Louisiana brown pelicans. One is taking flight, highlighted by the gold light of the moon. The other bird, which has its wings tightly closed, appears somewhat ghostly, drawn in red pencil over a black silhouette.
(Oona Tempest / KHN)

Voices from the episode:

  • Lanor Curole, Houma tribal administrator
  • Thomas Dardar Jr., former chief of the United Houma Nation
  • Shanondora Billiot, assistant professor of social work at Arizona State University
  • Daniel Lewerenz, assistant professor at the University of North Dakota School of Law

Season 4 of “American Diagnosis” is a co-production of KHN and Just Human Productions.

Our Editorial Advisory Board includes Jourdan Bennett-BegayeAlastair Bitsóí, and Bryan Pollard.

To hear all KHN podcasts, click here.

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