25 may 2016

The First Official Climate Refugees in the U.S. Race Against Time

A Native American tribe struggles to hold on to their culture in a Louisiana bayou while their land slips into the Gulf of Mexico.

PUBLISHED May 25, 2016, National Geographic

A shot rings out across what remains of Isle de Jean Charles as the sun drops behind the gnarled skeletons of what once were massive oak trees. Rifle in hand, Howard Brunet, 14, stands on the deck of his uncle’s stilted house looking down at the rabbit he shot on the far edge of the property. His sister Juliette, 13, leaps down the stairs to retrieve the body—since neither of the boys will touch it. Next comes rabbit stew. It’s a normal evening at the Brunet household. The kids are tough. The water forces them to be.

“We have to be careful with the .22; we need those shells for food,” their uncle, Chris Brunet, who is raising Juliette and Howard, said as the siblings set out empty laundry-detergent containers for target practice with their cousin Reggie Parfait, 13, who lives down the road.

Since 1955, the Isle de Jean Charles band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe has lost 98 percent of its land to the encroaching Gulf waters. Of the 22,400-acre island that stood at that time, only a 320-acre strip remains. The tribe’s identity, food, and culture have slowly eroded with the land.


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