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  • Ayeta

No Thanks, No Giving.

Transcript of the speech given at the 50th National Day of Mourning, Nov. 28, 2019. Aletu, ayukpatce! Sa utcefu Ayeta. Uma ukula atcaka a mente. Uma seya. Ayaku nittak chukma! Today is good.

Hello, my name is Ayeta, and I am a member of the Houma Nation, along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. I want to give a little disclaimer: I do NOT speak FOR the Houma Nation, merely as myself, a person who happens to be a member of the Nation, whose family has inhabited the coast for hundreds of years.

We’ve had all sorts of struggles over the years. Some might have heard of my people in their dealing with the destruction after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, or maybe after the BP oil spills of 2014. Maybe even more recently they might have heard of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, which is the tail end of the same pipeline that Standing Rock brought attention to, the Dakota Access Pipeline. That pipeline goes through a lot of communities of color, including what would be considered now “our lands.” (I won’t get into how what you call New Orleans is what we called Bulbancha, or Baton Rouge is our old land really named Istrouma.) Or maybe ya’ll might have heard how the mostly native community of Isle de Jean Charles, the island of Jean Charles, has some of the first refugees of climate change. Over 22000 acres on the island, and now only about 320 acres remain. 98 percent, gone.

What you probably won’t hear about is how the state actually got the money for the relocation efforts, not the tribe. The tribal members still on the island have either outright turned down the State’s relocation efforts, or are still unsure about it, despite definitely needing the help. The state has 0 regard for tribal sovereignty- they were allowed to come in at the beginning, then there was a long gap of communication, then they let the tribes in at like the 3rd quarter of planning talks, and even then for a long time all they were given was a 1 page vague summary. There are worries about reuniting members who have already left into the same community, there are worries about the location that they were not consulted on to move to, there are worries about affording the increased taxes and insurances. There’s big worries about the tribe not having any say on who can move into the new community, after /certain/ of their families are moved in. Overall, it’s really sketchy. Three and a half years, and not a home is up yet. Ooh, here’s a good quote from DeSmogBlog which did a great couple of write-ups on this:

“After Naquin’s rebuke of the State’s handling of the grant, OCD {Office of Community Deveolment} Director Pat Forbes said he still welcomed Naquin’s participation in the project, and in January met with him and other local officials to bridge the rift. Following the meeting, Naquin sent Forbes a list of the Tribe’s desired changes to the OCD plan, but the State rejected all of the requests.”

As my chief, Chief Creppel said about the issue in one of the open meetings: “For too many years, people have been using the Indian name to get what they want, and then we find out it is not what they say it is. We have been dealing with broken promises for hundreds of years — this is just one more promise.”

And now, ANOTHER pipeline is being planned to cut through the already fragile swamps. LNG wants to put a 283 mile, across 14 parishes, natural gas pipeline in through the wetlands that help break hurricane destruction. And I quote: “Venture Global LNG said that it's not aware of any detrimental impacts during hurricanes if the land was cleared for a pipeline.” The Tunica Biloxi tribe has already had to hire a lawyer to voice concerns about the pipeline crossing their tribal lands. Even 50 years ago, land that is now under water was high and dry and held crops, or one elder recalled to me when she had a clothesline outside. Now, that land is often underwater, or floods over a hard rain. My own family’s old fishing camp house that I visited as a kid is now underwater, for instance. Land that held gardens and crops fine now floods with salt water, and people are having to do raised gardens instead. Land that once held vibrant huge old live oaks now holds bleached, dead trunks. Hurricane Barry was a small hurricane. That’s something that people down there should have been easily able to ride out. Instead, 12 tribal citizens had to be rescued off their roofs. Some people had 6 to 8 ft of water in their homes. Bayous and Gulf waters that held our lifeways of teaming seafood have problems with pollution, or oil spills, or the water has the algae blooms. We consume this, too. Shellfish are water cleaners, after all. And did you know that something like 80% of migratory birds pass through the Atchafalaya Basin? They’re eating that, too. We’re already in an extinction event, let’s DO something about it, shall we?

The fact is that the land is changing. The climate is changing. We cannot replace what has already been lost. But we can, and do, try to preserve what is left, whether it be the land, our culture and traditions, or even just the memories of what was. We bring this knowledge forward with us, into the future. I wanna give a shoutout to the language revitalization effort we got going, the Houma Language Project, and we are awakening our language, one of the languages we had before Houma French, and certainly before English, out of its long slumber. We’ve also got some great research opportunities going on, like technologically mapping our elder’s traditional ecological knowledge and helping bring that knowledge to a higher acceptance in academia. We have a new alliance that we hope will aid in our efforts for federal recognition, which has only gotten more requirements under Trump to try to make it even harder to have any sort of significant sovereignty or federal aid. We were too Indian to go to the white schools up until the mid 60’s, but now we’re not Indian enough to be federally recognized? Yea ok. We have powwows, and festivals for our people, and we laissez les bon temps rouler, we let the good times roll. We celebrate life. And we adapt. And we will survive.