Climate change, rising sea levels and more intense hurricane seasons stand as pressing issues in the health and housing crises afflicting Louisiana’s tribal communities. More frequent and severe weather events demand that groups including the United Houma Nation, the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana and the Coushatta Tribe become more vigilant and adaptable.

The tribes are forced to navigate an increasingly precarious landscape, fraught with threats to physical historical landmarks integral to tribes such as the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw who are facing an existential threat from climate-induced disasters that could erase centuries of history and culture.

To foster resilience and ensure the safety of these communities, the federal government has issued Executive Order 14008: “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” Through this directive, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has committed to supporting activities under the Indian Community Development Block Grant and Indian Housing Block Grant Competitive programs. 

These initiatives are a beacon of hope, signifying a pivotal shift toward safeguarding eligible communities recognized under Title I of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act or Section 4(13) of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act.

However, this move also brings to light the issues surrounding state-recognized tribes such as the Choctaw and Pointe-au-Chien, who find themselves more vulnerable to geographical isolation, inadequate resources, and limited access to federal aid. This lack of support amplifies the infrastructural strain and hinders these tribes’ ability to recuperate from intensified hurricanes caused by changing weather patterns and rising sea temperatures.

A surge in Category 4 and 5 storms affects the living conditions of these tribal communities, compelling them to reassess their housing and infrastructure resilience. Their rich centuries-old cultural heritage stands threatened, pushing these communities to fight for their survival and legacy for future generations.

Tribal communities are steering initiatives grounded in ancient knowledge to fortify homes through community-driven preparedness programs. These efforts underline their resolve.

Tribes located more inland, such as the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, grapple with emergency systems strained to their limits, heralding an urgent call for strategies to facilitate rapid recovery from disasters.

Government bodies, acting in line with Executive Order 14008, are collaborating with tribal leaders to develop initiatives to foster sustainability and resilience. It is an effort to envision a synthesis of modern technology and indigenous wisdom to address the challenges. 

As each new hurricane season looms, Louisiana’s tribal communities are leveraging both ancestral wisdom and modern innovation, to navigate a climate-impacted landscape with strength and forethought. It is a mission not just to protect lives, but to safeguard a rich, diverse cultural heritage for the generations to come.

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Brandi Liberty is an enrolled member of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas & Nebraska and a descendant of the United Houma Nation in Southern Louisiana. She is the owner of The Luak Group and its subsidiary...