Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Demand federal recognition for the Houma people

By Jason Disterhoft

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