climate change; indigenous communities; Louisiana; land loss; cultural heritage
Climate change is one of the the most pressing challenges our world will face in the next century, and its effects can already be felt in the bayous and bays of Louisiana. Louisiana is one of the places most vulnerable to the climate change in the United States. The coast and communities of Southern Louisiana are particularly vulnerable, and have been dealing with the impacts of land loss and climate change for years. One of the most-impacted communities is Dulac, a small town in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana and home to the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians, an indigenous tribe that has been living in the region since the mid-1800s. The Grand Caillou/Dulac Band, or the BCCM, has suffered the impacts of land loss and climate change on their ancestral land, community, culture, and cultural heritage sites, a burden made still heavier by the tribe’s lack of federal recognition from the United States government. Relying on interviews conducted during a research trip to Dulac in January of 2018, primary research, and source analysis, my project examines the history of the BCCM and their current community in Dulac, while also describing the impact of land loss and climate change on the community. In an effort to extend past the simple acts of study and description, I also review the various avenues that exist to help the BCCM and Dulac mitigate the impact of land loss and climate change and protect their community, culture, and cultural heritage sites. I conclude by offering recommendations that the BCCM of Dulac can utilize to inform their decision-making regarding community and tribal resilience and mitigation of the effects of land loss and climate change. First, the BCCM should continue their petition to be acknowledged as a federal recognized indigenous tribe, a status which will allow them to take advantage of federal programs aimed at preserving coastal communities and give them a stronger voice in federal and state mitigation planning. Specifically, the BCCM should apply for a Federal Emergency Management Agency Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant and seek to register either their community or cultural heritage sites on the National Historic Register. Finally, the BCCM should start planning for relocation to ensure that, if relocation from Dulac becomes inevitable, the community can move intentionally and cooperatively to preserve as much of the community and culture as possible.