June 8, 2017

Rising Water on the Bayou

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One of my responsibilities as the Enterprise Cultural and Climate Tribal Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program associate is to visit sites where our VISTAs have been assigned. I recently had the pleasure of visiting our VISTAs in the Gray, Louisiana vicinity at the Lowlander Center. This was a tremendous opportunity to witness the decreasing land mass in the bayou.

I saw firsthand the impact that climate change is having on the livelihood and physical environment of the culture of the indigenous people who have inhabited this region for centuries. As the climate shifts other unrelenting changes are forcing serious life-changing decisions amongst the Tribal people whose way of life is bonded with the bayou lifeways.

Overcoming Barriers Beyond Climate Change

Unfortunately, the changing weather is not the only hurdle these bayou tribal communities are facing. There are also political, social, physical, systemic and attitudinal barriers to overcome. With the last two decades of cataclysmic weather related events, tribal members have left their ancestral home further inland. Two Enterprise Cultural and Climate Tribal Resilience AmeriCorps VISTAs are working diligently to bring tribal leaders back to the table.  

Isle de Jean Charles has lost 98% of it land mass. A strong breeze from the southeast can be enough to cause a storm surge and flooding.  The Lowlander Center is coordinating efforts to solidify the relationships not only between local tribes, but also between parishes and state and private entities to secure the tools and resources to respond to the impact of climate change.

VISTAs Uniting Tribal Communities

I cannot say enough about the trailblazing work being done by VISTAs Carmalita Sylve and Katie DeHart, enrolled members of Grand Bayou and Point Au Chein tribes, respectively.

As the Enterprise VISTA grant moves into its second year, I am confident that the VISTAs will continue to bring together the tribal leaders and other groups facing the same weather-related issues and catalyzing meaningful change.

If your organization is interested in hosting a VISTA or if you want to make a difference personally as  Cultural and Climate Tribal Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA member, please contact me at vgallagher@enterprisecommunity.org or 303-376-5404.

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