By Raleigh Keagan, LABB Member Action Associate
As the United State’s energy needs continue to be on the rise, methods for acquiring conventional resources continue to be a detriment to communities throughout the country. Predominantly affecting minorities and those in lower income brackets, large companies have taken advantage of the fact that these populations typically don’t have the resources to stand up against industrial giants. Tired of being lied to, manipulated, and harmed, however, there has been a growing resistance.
The Grand Bayou Village hosted the Healing the Earth: Beading and Extraction workshop this past week to discuss the various ways their community and environment have been harmed by extraction of resources, inclement weather, and lack of support. The workshop was co-organized with UNO-CHART, the Center for Hazards, Assessment, Response and Technology. Communities from neighboring towns were in attendance, including Grand Bayou Village, Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha Confederation of Muskogess, Isle de Jean Charles Band of the Biloxi-Chitimancha Confederation of Muskogees, and Pointe-au-Chein Indian Tribe. There were also representatives from tribes in Minnesota (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa), and Alaska (Eyka).
The meeting was designed to spread to communities beyond the those in the room as well, including a tribal youth from California providing the sage for smudging that was done in a traditional ceremonial way, and a leader from the Ogoni Community who was displaced from Nigeria and is now in Cape Town, South Africa, heading up the Ogoni Solidarity Forum. There were also two young women from Homer, Alaska working with the Children of the Spills Project. Individuals from the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council (RCAC) in Alaska were also present.
Presentations consisted of information on how industry has waltzed into these communities, framing the intrusion as non-negotiable. While oil and gas exploration and drilling has been the primary culprit in southeastern Louisiana, countless communities have long felt the negative effects from industry, including hydro-fracking, uranium mining, mountain top removal and more. Like so many other disenfranchised peoples around the nation, the people of Grand Bayou have decided enough is enough.
Representatives from these gulf coast communities have been in communication with officials, attempting to receive acknowledgement for the hardships they have, and continue to suffer. Washington law makers will be considering a bill that would allow for a Gulf Coast RCAC. This would not only legitimize the work of these communities in the eyes of the government, but also create a unified organization for concerned members to bring their issues to discuss.
The Alaskan RCAC has addressed issues such as destructive extraction, oversight and cultural reinvigoration. They did a lot of work with the Exxon Valdez oil spill back in 1989, and would be a very good model for the Grand Bayou communities to work off of and build on.
The people in these southeastern Louisiana towns have traditional ways of meeting to discuss these and other pressing issues, and incorporating them into their meetings is a good way to reach out to fellow community members, as well as proudly incorporate their customary ways of life. The workshop this past week incorporated beading; a historic pastime of these native communities. While individuals made jewelry from beads, feathers and hides, they discussed the issues plaguing their land and people. These activities bring people together, and offer an informal forum for ideas and brainstorming.
While the concerns these communities must face on a daily basis are widespread, by coming together in a united front they are taking the steps to change and improve their circumstances. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade proudly supports these communities and their efforts.