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Oil disaster threatens an indigenous lifestyle in the Louisiana bayou

Rocky Kistner

Posted June 2, 2010

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The Philippe family has called Louisiana's Grand Bayou home for “centuries upon centuries." As part of the Native American Atakapa-Ishak tribe, the family has relied on the land and water around it to survive for generations. It's all they know. But when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, tens of millions of gallons of toxic crude have been spewed into the waters that the Philippes rely on to catch fish, shrimp, oysters, and crabs. The family now finds both its livelihood and its legacy threatened by the ongoing crisis.

In this beautifully shot and edited video below, the Philippe family describes their traditions and how it could be destroyed by the worst oil spill disaster in this nation's history. The video was filmed by Gigi Glenn and edited by Erika Brekke for NRDC's OnEarth magazine. Excerpts from the video are below:


Rosina Philippe: We are of the Atakapa-Ishak and we are indigenous to this region and we have been here for centuries upon centuries. We still eat from the land and eat from the water, and we still live here. Basically not that much has changed as far as lifestyle. Culture, heritage, that's still the same. 

Maurice Philippe: I wouldn’t trade it for nothing in the world. I love it. It’s hard work but it’s a good way of making a living. All that stuff is in our blood and I don’t think it ever, ever is going to get out.

Danny Philippe: I think in the long term everybody is going to suffer. Everybody. You’all not going to be able to eat no more shrimp like you used to, we ain’t going to be able to go out there and catch it.  

Maurice: What am I going to do for the future with oil messing up everything? To tell you the truth I don’t know nothing else I could do. I never did nothing else since I was knee high to grasshopper. I just don’t know. I can't tell you what I’m going to do.

Rosina: The people who came before us endured a lot of stuff. They went through a lot of things that impacted their lives negatively. But they stayed for us. So I’m thinking I’m not going anywhere. For us it's life and death. It's not just life and death for a people, it's life and death for a culture, it’s life and death for an ecosystem, for this environment, and for this very planet that we inhabit. 

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Wes MartelJun 2 2010 06:17 PM

I know Rosina to be a proud Native woman deciated to her family, tribe and homeland. My heart, thoughts and prayers are with them.

Tracy MoaveroJun 3 2010 10:24 PM

Thanks to NRDC for this video. We haven't heard much (if anything) in the news from a Native perspective. What an eloquent but troubling summary of what's at stake. Wishing the Philippes and other families in the region the best. I hope we - finally - learn from this disaster and make some big changes.

Al JohnnieJun 6 2010 02:50 PM


Deborah AJun 8 2010 03:55 PM

Become aware and involved. We have one planetary home. This is all we have, folks. This is it! Don't be misdirected by greedy manipulators. We are children of our mother Earth. What are we going to do NOW?

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