Fending For Themselves: Devastating Social and Environmental Impacts of BP Oil Spill
by Dahr Jamail
July 5, 2010
We drive south on Louisiana Highway 55 towards Pointe-au-Chien. The two-lane road hugs a bayou, like most of the roads leading south into the marsh areas. Incredibly green, lush forest gives way to increasing areas of water the further south we venture, until the very road feels as though it is floating.
We cross over a small concrete bridge over another bayou and find ourselves square in front of the Pointe-au-Chien sign informing us this is their tribal area. We’ve come to meet Theresa Dardar, in order to learn more about how the BP oil disaster is decimating the indigenous populations of Southern Louisiana.
Theresa is a member of the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe. They are a small community of self-described Indians that live in southern Louisiana along a small stretch of the Bayou Pointe-au-Chien. Now, oil from the BP disaster threatens their very existence.
Historically, they have been a community reliant upon hunting, fishing, agriculture, and cattle. But due to, as Theresa puts it, “devastation of our land by the oil companies,” the lack of protection of the barrier islands and lack of fresh water replenishment and saltwater intrusion, the Tribe has had to rely primarily on fishing to sustain itself.
On May 29, the shrimping season was closed in their area, putting most of the tribe out of work. On June 19, shrimping season reopened when oil in nearby bays abated somewhat, but shrimping was and still is only allowed in the Cut-Off Canal-a tiny area compared to what they are usually allowed access to.
This is what Theresa is most concerned about-behind of course, their land vanishing beneath their feet as it is, like much of the rest of southern Louisiana, swallowed up by the Gulf of Mexico.
Today, members of her tribe, including her husband, spend their days contracting their shrimp boats to BP in order to lay out boom, instead of being in the midst of a busy and fruitful shrimping season.
Outside her home, like that of her neighbors, huge green nets hang from trees. Other fishing gear sits idly in yards, indicative of a way of life being placed on indefinite hold.