The United Houma Nation of Southern Louisiana are on the front lines of oil extraction in the Gulf Coast, and on the front lines of climate change. But they've been fighting for climate justice with one hand tied behind their backs. After Hurricane Katrina and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, the Houma people were denied much-needed recovery resources—because the United States doesn't recognize them as a tribe.1
This Indigenous Peoples' Day, stand with the United Houma Nation. Join their call for federal recognition!
The United Houma Nation is a 17,000-member Indigenous tribe native to a broad region of the Gulf South, now living mostly in Southern Louisiana. They have been fighting the U.S. government for official recognition for more than thirty years,2 only to be frustrated by an unnecessarily onerous process.3 Failure to recognize the Houma people amounts to a blatant denial of their rightful claim to tribal sovereignty. And it limits how they can protect the marsh, swamp and bayou ecosystems of the land that they’ve called home for centuries.
Make no mistake—those ecosystems are under constant, and growing, threat. Five years ago, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated the Houma people’s traditional fisheries, gravely impacting their rights to food subsistence, cultural practices, and economic livelihood.4 But BP flatly rejected compensating the Houma people—because they aren’t recognized by the U.S. government.
Ten years ago, despite facing terrible destruction from Hurricane Katrina—the nation's costliest natural disaster—the United Houma Nation didn’t get a single federal recovery grant. This year, the Houma people are renewing their push for federal recognition. Take action and stand with them!
The Houma people are facing hurricanes, oil disasters, and a growing existential threat—massive and ongoing erosion of their traditional marshlands, the equivalent of losing a football field every hour.5 They have a right to the resources they need to fight back.
Add your voice today.
P.S. RAN is taking action alongside the United Houma Nation as part of Change the Course, a project that crowdsources a vision of a just and climate-stable 2050 and brainstorms strategies to get there. This year, we’ve been listening to the best ideas for how we win on climate, and the emerging vision of the future is one where communities stand together to fight for climate justice. We’d love for you to be part of Change the Course. Add your vision!
1. “Louisiana tribe renews fight for federal recognition in the face of sinking lands, environmental disasters”, Facing South
2. “Federal Recognition”, United Houma Nation
3. "Tribes Seek Speedier Federal Recognition”, Wall Street Journal
4. “Native American Group Hit Hard By Oil Spill”, NPR
5. “As Louisiana’s marshes erode, so does the Houma Indians way of life”, Al Jazeera America
— Alliance of 31 First Nations
This week, despite broad public opposition, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper approved Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline. The Northern Gateway pipeline, seen as a backup option to the Keystone XL pipeline that is currently mired down in a political quagmire in the U.S., would ship 500,000 barrels of bitumen a day through British Columbia to the Pacific coast.
The approval sparked loud protest from First Nations groups and environmentalists. Opposition to Enbridge has already been heightened in British Columbia and with the Harper government’s announcement, opponents took to the streets of Vancouver and promised fierce resistance to the pipeline.
First Nations groups in Canada, which have long fought the pipeline, vowed to defend their land and their sovereignty with no surrender. In an unprecedented show of unity, 31 First Nations and tribal councils have signed a letter announcing their intention to "vigorously pursue all lawful means to stop the Enbridge project."
Furthermore the Uni’stot’en Clan has maintained a blockade encampment in the path of Enbridge and other proposed pipelines on their territory in British Columbia since 2009. Upon the Northern Gateway announcement they stated they “are prepared to continue to defend their territories against the incursion of government and industry.”
The environmental left has also vowed to fight back against Northern Gateway. Direct actions, protests and legal battles are being planned to stop the pipeline.
Immediately after the announcement, environmentalists launched sit-ins in Member of Parliament offices in opposition to the decision. Four were arrested at the office of James Moore, Conservative MP and Minister of Industry.
One of the four was Jackie DeRoo, MBA, a mother and retired businesswoman: “I'd never even been to a protest until Northern Gateway came along and I began to learn about climate change,” she said. “If ordinary citizens like me are willing to get arrested to stop this project, Harper can expect blockades that will make Clayoquot look like a picnic.”
At the same time as the Northern Gateway pipeline and Keystone XL campaigns, Enbridge have lobbied for a system of pipelines to send hundreds of thousands of barrels of tar sands south to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Enbridge has multiple pipelines proposed in the United States.
The oil giants are not backing off on draining the Alberta tar sands of every last drop of oil. Nor should the opposition back off in the slightest.
Photo: Direct action at Minister of Industry James Moore's office