‘American Diagnosis’: Houma is becoming human as the climate crisis hits the Bayou


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Episode 11: “Climate Displacement, Cultural Resilience”

Lanor Kurol is a member of the United Houma Nation. He grew up in Golden Meadow, a small bayou town in southern Louisiana. The effects of recurrent flooding in the area forced him to move further north.

Louisiana’s coastal wetlands lose about 16 square miles of land each year. Loss of this land, pollution from the 2010 BP oil spill, and lingering devastation from Hurricanes Katrina and Ida are pushing many Houma people from their homes.

Since 1985, the United Houma Nation has been seeking federal tribal recognition status. Without this status, tribes have fewer resources to respond to the climate crisis.

“Our people are on that front row, but we don’t have a seat at that table,” Kurol said.

Gaining federal recognition would give the Houma access to Indian health services and allow the tribe to work directly with federal agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency when storms hit.

“It’s not like Willy Wonka’s ‘golden ticket’ … but I think it will open some additional doors that are definitely closed for us right now,” Kurol said.

Episode 11 explores the Houma people’s efforts to preserve culture in the face of climate crisis.

A digital image in watercolor and pencil.  It is a night scene.  The artwork shows an off-shore oil rig drawn in bright red pencil out at sea.  The water is dark black with a hint of reflection from a full moon.  In the center of the photo are two Louisiana brown pelicans.  One is flying highlighted by the golden light of the moon.  The other bird, with its wings tightly closed, appears somewhat ghostly, drawn in red pencil over a black silhouette.
(Ona Tempest/KHN)

Voiceover from the episode:

  • Lanor Kurol, Houma Tribal Administrator
  • Thomas Darder Jr, Former Chief of the United Houma Nation
  • Shannondora BilliotAssistant Professor of Social Work at Arizona State University
  • Daniel Leverenz, Assistant Professor at the University of North Dakota School of Law

Season 4 of “American Diagnosis” is co-produced by KHN and Just Human Productions.

Includes our Editorial Advisory Board Jordan Bennett-Begaye, Alistair Bitzoiand Brian Pollard.

To listen to all KHN podcasts, click here.

Listen to and follow “American Diagnosis” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, or Stitcher.

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