CIRCUMVENTING THE NEXT TRAIL OF TEARS: RE-APPROACHING PLANNING AND POLICY FOR THE CLIMATOLOGICALLY DISPLACED INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES OF COASTAL LOUISIANA
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Sand-Fleischman, Melanie Grace
Many of Louisiana’s indigenous ancestors migrated to the coastal bayous to escape the Trail of Tears. Over a century later, American Indian descendants now grapple with new threats of environmental displacement. Their land is disappearing due to increasing rates of erosion, subsidence, sea level rise, and hurricanes. As their ancestral land disappears, the tribal community of Isle de Jean Charles is among the first in the United States to plan for relocation. This study explores aspects of government-sponsored displacement—the institutions, policies, and modes of planning practice—which obstruct the adaptation efforts of indigenous communities while escalating conflict and distrust toward the government. While much of the relevant scholarship on indigenous, climatological displacement is anthropological with a focus on indigenous perspectives, this case study is intended to advance the scarce body of relocation planning literature by exploring indigenous-state relations from both sides, addressing the question: How do indigenous communities, planners, government officials, and non-governmental organizations work together to overcome both a legacy of indigenous-state distrust and institutional barriers to resilience amidst indigenous climate change displacement? The dissertation first argues that some of the most impactful, yet less visible contributors to the tribes’ hazards vulnerability are institutional, including (1) the practice of planning, (2) the oil and gas industry, (3) federal acknowledgement procedures, and (4) cultural resource management. Then, pulling from missed opportunities and successes regarding the Isle de Jean Charles relocation, the case study ultimately reveals that the conventional, rational planning mode is ill-suited for the indigenous relocation scenario, because this approach motivates planners and public officials to dominate the planning and decision-making processes, only reinforcing distrust. However, indigenous, community-based planning approaches have led to decreased tension and modest planning successes, such as their acquisition of federal funding. This research is the culmination of ethnographic fieldwork conducted from September 2014 to August 2015 with three tribes of Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes, Louisiana: the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe, the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, and the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw. Methods depended largely on participant-observation and interviews with approximately seventy tribal members, planners, public officials, and nonprofit leaders.
Climate Change Displacement; Community-Based Planning; Hazard Mitigation; Indigenous Planning; Vulnerability to Hazards
Forester, John F.
Santiago-Irizarry, Vilma; Prentice, Rachel E.
City and Regional Planning
Ph. D., City and Regional Planning
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis