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The Chief of a Louisiana Tribe Reflects on Being Displaced by Climate Change

Members of the Jean Charles Choctaw Nation are slowly leaving the land they’ve lived and farmed on for generations… as stronger and more frequent storms hit the Louisiana coastline. 

Chief Albert Naquin remembers growing up on Isle de Jean Charles, LA in the 1950s. He came to StoryCorps with his nephew, Démé Naquin Jr., who also grew up on the island. 

Middle Photo: Démé Naquin Jr., looking out on the Jean Charles tribe’s ancestral burial ground on Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana. By Von Diaz for StoryCorps.

Hurricanes are common across the region, but climate change has increased the frequency and destructiveness of these storms, leading to flooding and coastal erosion, and destroying homes and local infrastructure. 

Chief Naquin believes relocation is crucial for his community to keep them safe and preserve their history and culture. Since 2002 he’s made multiple attempts to acquire the funds and support needed to move the remaining families off the island and reunite the tribe in a new community on higher ground. But his efforts have been stunted by numerous factors, including the inability to reach consensus within their tribal council, and a planned move that was halted when community members in neighboring Bourg, Louisiana protested the tribe’s relocation there. 

 At StoryCorps, he spoke with his nephew about their memories of the island, and their shared hope for their entire community to be together again.

Top Photo: Chief Albert Naquin and Démé Naquin Jr. at their StoryCorps interview in Montegut, Louisiana on September 17, 2022. By Zanna McKay for StoryCorps.
Bottom Photo: An abandoned home on Isle de Jean Charles, with a sign reading, “Isle de Charles is not dead. Climate change sucks.” By Von Diaz for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired September 23, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.