By Adrien McElroy, Alliance Institute
BISCO, an Alliance Institute community involvement grantee for Louisiana, hosted a special tour on July 25th that covered the unique history of The Five Bayous area in coastal Louisiana and the many challenges communities there face from catastrophic land loss and environmental disasters. On the tour, Gulf Region Health Outreach Program (GRHOP) partners were welcomed to key locations throughout Terrebonne Parish. Partner organizations included Alliance Institute, Louisiana Public Health Institute, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, and University of South Alabama’s Coastal Resource and Resiliency Center.
The road to the first stop on the tour was lined on either side with houses already on stilts or in the process of being raised. The initial rally point for the tour was the Dulac Community Center – the community hub of the United Houma Nation (UHN). During a presentation by the center’s director, participants were surprised to learn that during the Jim Crow era, neither segregated white only schools nor segregated black schools accepted Houma children. As a result, the Dulac Community Center was the first place that provided Houma children with a basic education. Center staff then shared accounts of the struggles for federal recognition that UHN has experienced. Finally, members of the UHN Tribal Council shared Houma culture with the group, including a dance presentation by the Bayou Eagles children’s cultural group, a demonstration of the beauty of Houma crafts (palmetto baskets made with a unique Houma weaving technique, cured Spanish moss dolls, and alligator gar scale jewelry), and lunch with traditional Houma fried bread.
Next the group proceeded to the nearby David Chauvin’s Seafood Company, one of few seafood docks owned and operated by former shrimpers. The group toured their office, dock and ice house. Staff there shared that the current shrimping season yield is down six million pounds from the same point in last year’s season and the shrimpers that sell to their dock are struggling to make ends meet.