Coastal land loss driven by erosion and subsidence, and amplified by climate change, has forced the abandonment and resettlement of the remote Louisiana Indigenous community of Isle de Jean Charles. This relocation, to a relatively ‘safer’ site inland has led to division among the residents and will inevitably cause irreparable damage to the culture and traditions of the Houma and Biloxi Chitimacha Confederation of Muskogees peoples who called this small, isolated island home. Driven to the water’s edge by European colonization of south Louisiana, this community developed a dynamic subsistence lifestyle based on agriculture, hunting, and fishing which survived undisturbed until the discovery of oil in the swamps of south Louisiana in the early twentieth century. Since that time, destruction of the delicate ecosystem by oil exploitation and channelization of the Mississippi River led to persistent and continuous land loss. This article explores the historic settlement of the Isle de Jean Charles, the struggles of this Indigenous community in gaining recognition, and the ultimate abandonment of the Isle de Jean Charles to the natural erosive effects of the Gulf of Mexico when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined protection of the community was not warranted by their cost-benefit analysis. As a result of this series of events, the State of Louisiana obtained federal funding to relocate the community, but additional protections must be ensured to protect the cultures and traditions of this relocated Indigenous community so their Tribal heritage, unlike their land, is not consumed by the open waters.



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