The Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw has lived along the bayous south of Houma, Louisiana for generations. They have long practiced self-isolation and seasonality — especially since chronic flooding and hurricanes have pummeled the Gulf Coast over the last 15 years. They've had to change their food production and farming strategies because of it. And now, tribal members are hoping these practices will help them weather the pandemic. So far, it's working: The chief, Shirell Parfait-Dardar, said that there is only one case among her tribe’s 450 members, compared to relatively high cases in the surrounding metropolitan area.
This week, Barry Yeoman, a journalist based in Durham, North Carolina, wrote about the tribe's adaptations to these challenges and how they're caring for each other during the pandemic. “We have to have a really tight community system, and it has to function perfectly,” said Parfait-Dardar. “If it doesn’t, people die.”
Flooding in the bayous south of Houma, where the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw have lived for generations.
Photo courtesy Shirell Parfait-Dardar
So much news about the coronavirus is overwhelming, especially since states are reopening while cases are still increasing. I'm grateful for the bright spot of our story this week, which sheds light on what we can learn from the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw about community, sustainability, and resilience.
For Scalawag, Antionette Kerr investigated how North Carolina officials are failing to solve the murders of Indigenous women. "Despite their numbers, Lumbee tribe members say they feel invisible, as law enforcement and legislators have turned a blind eye to the [missing and murdered Indigenous women] crisis in their backyard."
Adrian Hedden wrote a story for the Carlsbad Current Argus to help connect the dots between the Permian Basin in West Texas — where the oil and gas boom is — and the Gulf Coast, where that oil is refined and exported, to show the consequences of this important industry on coastal communities and ecosystems.
For NBC News, Trymaine Lee covered how St. James Parish in Louisiana — home to "Cancer Alley," a glut of petrochemical plants in predominantly Black communities —is struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. “It's not random. It's not isolated. It's not coincidental. The singular root is racism and the continued operation of disparities based on race and based on place,” said Dr. Robert Bullard, a professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University who is widely considered “the father of environmental justice." “Air pollution and pollution in general is segregated, and so is America.”
Take half an hour this weekend to watch Tutwiler, a documentary by PBS Frontline and The Marshall Project, directed by filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon (Heroin(e), Recovery Boys) and reported and produced by Alysia Santo. It offers a window into the lives of pregnant women imprisoned at Alabama’s notorious Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.
My friend Molly Born has been helping produce Virginia Public Media's series Social Distance Assistance, and I've been enjoying all the episodes. This week, the host and her daughter dig into local food systems during the pandemic.
‘They didn’t tell us anything’: North Carolina poultry plant workers say Butterball isn’t protecting them from COVID-19
As the virus spreads through meatpacking plants across the U.S., immigrant communities struggle to get answers from the company or state about cases at a Mount Olive facility. Read the story.
These coal communities are protecting sick miners from COVID-19 and pushing Congress for more support
In rural east Tennessee and Kentucky, community networks and mutual aid efforts are supporting vulnerable people who need transportation, internet access, and food. Read the story.
News flying under the radar
Alabama has no major pipeline projects in the works, but lawmakers just advanced legislation to criminalize protests against fossil fuel infrastructure, including pipelines, as HuffPost reported this week. The legislation would make any action that “interrupts or interferes” with pipelines, storage depots or refineries a Class C felony, punishable with at least one year in prison and up to $15,000 in fines. Several other states, including Kentucky and West Virginia, have passed similar laws.
Plans to build a $100 million resort on a remote, undeveloped barrier island off the coast of South Carolina move forward since the Beaufort County staff claim the project can qualify as “ecotourism.” According to the Post and Courier, the local Gullah-Geechee community and conservation groups are protesting the plans.
For 40 years, the Southwest Virginia Bull Test Sale has been a tradition, providing high-quality herd bulls to beef producers in southwest Virginia. This year, the auction went online. Daily Yonder has the story.
A forest advocacy organization says the U.S. Forest Service has marked and illegally sold thousands of trees in excess of its own plans for the Daniel Boone National Forest, according to WFPL.
Emergency managers work nonstop to prepare communities for hurricanes during pandemic