Cypress
(Photo credit: jc.winkler / Flickr)

Citizens of the United Houma Nation in southeastern Louisiana say that the ground is disappearing beneath their feet.

Members of this state-recognized tribe have long lived on the Gulf Coast, so their culture is intimately tied to the water and land.

“Not only were we fisherman, but our entire food came from the land. And there were traditionally few grocery stores in many of our bayous simply because everything we needed, we had right there, and that includes our medicines,” says Shanondora Billiot.

Billiot is a citizen of the United Houma Nation and an assistant professor of social work at Arizona State University. She has studied how environmental changes affect the tribe.

She says climate change has altered the timing and abundance of fish harvests. And dredging by the oil industry, combined with sea-level rise, has allowed salt water to seep further inland. That makes it harder to grow food.

“And the salt water is also killing off the trees, and trees are very important for medicines and ceremonies – trees like the cedar and cypress,” Billiot says.

This changing landscape makes it more difficult for the Houma to sustain their traditional way of life.

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Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Topics: Arts & Culture