For Tribal Chief Albert Naquin of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, the slow sinking of the land - The Isle de Jean Charles - is only a small portion of his fears. With it sinks the culture and heritage of the once proud tribe. An island that once housed 300 people and over 8 generations of their community, The Isle de Jean Charles has been eroded by storms and rising water levels losing 98% of land to water. Today only around 60 tribesmen remain, reluctant to relocate for a fear of losing their identity forever.
“Once our island goes, the core of our tribe is lost,” said Chantel Comardelle the deputy tribal chief’s daughter. “We’ve lost our whole culture- that is what is on the line.”
The island is slowly disappearing into the gulf waters due to climatic changes, rising water levels, and shifting soil due to oil excavation. Marshland that previously protected their land and its nutrients, have all but sunk at a rate of nearly one football field every hour.
In an effort to preserve the tribe's heritage, the Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the tribe $48 million to relocate through the National Disaster Resilience Competition.
Tribal Chief Albert Naquin feels that the longer they wait the more hurricanes they will have to face, until they lose the island and its entire people. He stated, “We hate to let the island go, but we have to.”
The resettlement proposal aims at moving the remaining tribesmen to better and more historically and culturally appropriate locations in an effort to test adaptive methods and provide them with better living options. Most of the tribesmen are financially unable to relocate and fear losing their heritage. Relocating will only help reunite and strengthen and put to ease existing fears of extinction.