Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hurricane Gustav and Indigenous Peoples Along the Gulf Coast

Below are two communiqués put out by Brenda Dardar Robichaux, Principal Chief of the United Houma Nation (a State recognized Tribe with communities within Terreboone and Lafourche parish). The first dated Friday, August 29, 2008, and the second today, September 1.

It is not exactly known what damage the Houma Nation communities have experienced by hurricane Gustav. The last message from Principle Chief Brenda Dardar Robichaux indicated strong winds were starting to come in. Some tree branches were breaking. This was around 6-7 a.m. this morning. They are still recovering from the Katrina and Rita hurricanes of 2005 and I assume they will welcome any donations for those recovery costs, as well as any damages they will have from hurricane Gustav. All national TV new stations are only focusing in on the city of New Orleans with very little coverage of the rural bayou areas. The Houma people are bayou people and I am sure are experiencing damages that will take money to repair.

At the end of this press release we have listed the name and contact information of the United Houma Nation Relief Fund. This Relief Fund was created in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which helped thousands of tribal members return home and re-build their communities. Even though it is unpredictable on what level of impact hurricane Gustav will have, we are looking at reports from television news stations that hurricane Gustav could hit New Orleans with some mapping evidence that appears it could impact the region west of New Orleans. If this is so, people must know that the communities of the Houma Nation are located west of New Orleans, in the bayou coastal area of Louisiana. We are posting Principle Chief Dardar-Robichaux's statement and contact information. - Thank you for your support of the Houma Peoples, Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, IEN


Message from the Principal Chief
Brenda Dardar Robichaux

It's difficult to imagine that on the third anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we are threatened with the possibility of being in the same position that we were three years ago. But please be assured we have learned many lessons, and we are better prepared than we were then. We are all keeping a watchful eye on Gustav and are aware of the impact he could have on our communities. We would urge each and everyone of you in the threat zone to evacuate if you are able to on your own or contact your local officials immediately if you need assistance. We have reached out and are coordinating with the local offices of emergency preparedness in all of our communities to ensure that they are aware of your needs. We are four days from expected landfall and realize that Hurricane Gustav's track can change many times. Please continue to check the web site. We will do our best to keep you updated and provide you with information as thing progress.

I pray the Creator blesses us with strength and courage during these difficult times.


Message from the Principal Chief
Brenda Dardar Robichaux

About 20 of my family and friends has chosen to ride out Hurricane Gustav with us at our home in Raceland. Our home is on a high ridge right across from Bayou Lafourche. Last night was a relatively calm night with little wind and rain. But that soon changed. We lost electricity at 6:05 AM and are using batteries and a generator to stay in touch with what is happening throughout our communities. The wind has picked up considerably here to about 85 MPH. Some of us are sitting on the back porch watching in amazement how huge oak trees can bend and not break while magnolia tree branches fall. Others are glued to the TV listening intently for word of where Gustav is headed and the impact he is having. The lastest update is my worst fear for the Houma People as it is learned that he is approaching the bayous in Terrebonne and Lafourche parish. I feel we have done our best to make sure everyone has evacuated safely. The rest is out of our hands.

Hurricane Katrina and Rita left Plaquemine and St. Bernard Parishes with barely a home left standing or liveable. It has been a challenge to assist our People in these communities when there is nothing left to start with. Some are still living in FEMA trailers, with family and friends and a few are finally returning to a home. Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes have been on the road to recovery for the past 3 years with lives just getting back to normal. My fear for the past three years has been “What if Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes suffered total devestation as Plaquemine and St. Bernard Parishes? These are the communities with the highest concentration of Houma People. How would we recover knowing the challenges we still face in Plaquemine and St. Bernard?" I am paralized in fear that this is what is happening. The great people of the Houma Nation that I am so honored to represent, who have faced many challenges over the years are about to face one of our greatest challenges.

As I sit and write the winds are blowing and Gustav is approaching. I pray for protection, strength and courage to face what lies ahead.

United Houma Nation
20986 Highway 1
Golden Meadow, LA 70357
Office: (985) 537-8867
Fax: (985) 537-8812
Email: bdr@unitedhoumanation.org

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