Louisiana tribes restore traditional diets in the face of climate change
Native Americans are losing their ability to live off the land as it has crumbled into the Gulf of Mexico. Some of them are trying to figure out how to survive on what’s left.
By Barry Yeoman
Food and Environmental Network
Southern Foodways Alliance’s Gravy podcast, The Lens
February 9, 2017
A few decades ago, the Pointe-au-Chien tribal members of Louisiana fed themselves well—they fished in nearby waters, raised livestock, planted fruits and vegetables, trapped marsh hens, and even hunted turtle and alligator. But as the tides, driven higher by climate change, started to eat up the tribe’s territory leaving fewer places to put a garden or raise livestock and less terrain to hunt and forage for wild plants, the tribe turned to processed foods. And as water levels continued to rise, so did rates of diabetes and cholesterol.
Philippe also talked about a project her tribe, which is not protected by levees, is working on: gardens in boxes that can be lifted with pulleys. Grand Bayou Village has tried traditional raised-bed gardens, but they have proven impractical. “Tides have been higher,” she explained to me afterward. “In storm events, we get more water, so they get inundated with saltwater.” That kills the plants. Hence the idea of gardens that can be raised and lowered mechanically. They could grow typical vegetables like tomatoes, along with traditional medicines and indigenous plants like wild celery and parsley. Philippe also described plans to create a floating garden by mounting a container on top of a 4-foot-by-8-foot section of plastic dock.