The Houma Indians reside in the backwaters of the Mississippi Delta, a coastal area that is disappearing due to natural subsidence, sea-level rise, and mismanagements of the ecosystems. The purpose of this paper is to scrutinize the causes of this ecocide and the responses addressing such environmental challenges, including scientific strategies, political non-intervention, and the United Houma Nation’s plans for preserving a sense of place and togetherness as a prerequisite for its cultural survival.
This ethnographic investigation relies on participant observation, and interviews with tribal leaders, fishermen, trappers, as well as scientists and local politicians. In order to grasp the emic perspective, most interviews were conducted in the Houma French dialect.
The Mississippi Delta epitomizes issues that will shape tomorrow’s world, namely, the vulnerability of coastal areas and the flows of environmental refugees. As shown by this study, coastal residents do not make a passive flux of evacuees responding to state/NGO-run plans. Actually, they are chief agents who either develop resilient strategies or proactive relocation stratagems to avoid ethnocide. Their pragmatic methodologies provide valuable data for any crisis management efforts.
This research gives a voice to the voiceless, and conveys their existential struggles from within – unlike most studies of endangered communities relying on outsiders’ viewpoints. This perspective depicts the Houmas as actors of their survival who implement diverse tribal strategies for coping with environmental change.
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