The Salvation Army engages with Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw and other non-profits for summit on resilient living
By: Michelle Hartfield
The Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, located in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes in the southernmost part of the state of Louisiana, are a people with a history of resilience. They have repeatedly adapted to changes in landscape and weather. Within their communities resides a wealth of knowledge on the local environment and ways to maintain it safely.
Today, many of the tribes’ population face a crisis exacerbated by Hurricane Ida in August 2021. Small, rural communities are still without power. Limited or no access to internet and phone service makes submitting online requests for assistance difficult.
The tribes still practice a system of communal living by which resources are freely given and distributed between neighbors.
“We are all in this community together,” said Elder Shirell Parfait-Dardar of the Grand Caillou Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw. “We do not want to leave anyone out or anyone behind.”
This system, along with the fact that the tribe is recognized by the state of Louisiana but is not federally recognized, can create roadblocks when attempting to secure traditional methods of assistance post disaster.
Representatives from The Salvation Army, FEMA, the Disaster Justice Network, Catholic Charities, and other non-profits in the area met with Tribal Leaders on Wednesday, September 7. They were able to meet with representatives from several bands to hear their stories and were given a boat tour of the bayous and tribal lands. The Summit was intended to create a chance to discuss resilient building techniques, natural ways to sustain the bayou system from further erosion, and how the tribes can access available assistance.
“Small gifts invested in community can be maximized through community,” said Major Ethan Frizzell, general secretary for the Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi division of The Salvation Army. “We are honored to be able to speak on behalf of the tribes and advocate for them in spaces they might otherwise be unable to access.”
A focus on resilient building techniques would lead to houses that can withstand hurricanes and no longer need to be continuously rebuilt or reroofed. Creating living, restorable shorelines could help sustain the tribal lands and prevent further erosion.
“The indigenous peoples of southern Louisiana have a deep understanding of the land, environment, and their community,” said Jeff Jellets, Territorial Disaster Coordinator for The Salvation Army’s USA Southern Territory. “By listening to their experiences, we are learning what the community needs to recover.”
The Salvation Army’s long term recovery specialists remained to offer insight on navigating case management, and the resources and tools available to achieve their goals. Tribal representatives expressed their gratitude. “We are grateful to The Salvation Army for taking the time to come and hear our stories. That is different from our usual experience.”