Roch Naquin grew up with his five brothers and sisters on the Isles de Jean Charles in Louisiana. The island supported about a hundred families of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe.

Isle de Jean Charles
Isles de Jean Charles

Many families had gardens and grew their own vegetables, and the fishing and trapping were abundant.

Naquin: “We would trap muskrat, minks, otters, coons, things of this nature.”

Although Naquin left the island years ago when he became a Catholic priest, he recently retired and moved back to the home of his youth. But he will not be able to stay.

A combination of sinking land and sea-level rise has submerged more than ninety-five percent of the island, and fewer than forty families remain.

The Army Corps of Engineers determined that the cost to protect the island with levees was too great. So instead, the federal government has provided millions of dollars to help move the entire community to higher ground.

Naquin: “My first preference would be to stay here on the island, but prudence says take advantage and move with the community.”

Naquin and the other residents of Louisiana’s Isles de Jean Charles are becoming some of America’s first climate refugees.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Island photo source: Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians Facebook page.

More Resources
Isle de Jean Charles website
Vanishing Tribe: Coastal erosion threatens survival of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw
This Louisiana tribe is now America’s first official climate refugees

Avatar photo

Bud Ward

Bud Ward was editor of Yale Climate Connections from 2007-2022. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as assistant director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission...