Newswise — Ocean Springs, MS - The Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA) is proud to announce a project to support coastal resilience and habitat restoration activities with the Pointe-au-Chien Tribe in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes, Louisiana. BHP, a new Gulf Star partner, is funding this unique project.  GOMA will work with partners in the region to identify and implement priority actions to address the Tribe’s cultural and historical resilience, in alignment with the Tribe’s Strategic Plan and ongoing work.

Coastal Louisiana residents combat land loss every day. The Pointe-au-Chien Native American community resides in both Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes. The two parishes encompass over 33 percent of the state’s coastal area. Scientists estimate these two basins are experiencing between 50% and 61% of land conversion to open water for the entire state.

The historically rich culture of south Louisiana is tied directly to its environment. In recent years, the Pointe-au-Chien Tribe initiated citizen science projects by gathering historical information to inform their community’s future sustainability. Specifically, they monitor changes in flora and fauna and collect information on maps of flooding incidents, identification of culturally-important biological habitat components (called “ethnobotany” which are important to diet, tradition medicines and ceremonial rituals), and documentation of sea level rise and subsidence. The Tribe has continually adapted to ecological changes in the past and today are investing in actions for their future sustainability.

Part of the Pointe-au-Chien’s work in ethnobotany is collecting and storing seed stock and rhizomes for the restoration benefit of all the six tribes in the coastal Louisiana region. The Pointe-au-Chien are on the forefront of this work as their basin is not protected by levees. Thus, making their efforts paramount to protecting the increasingly fragile ecosystem that is vital to their community’s survival.

GOMA and its partners have a track record of working with individual communities around the Gulf of Mexico. They utilize land use planning and resilience assessments to identify cultural and community needs. These tools guide decision makers through a critical evaluation process to distinguish vulnerable areas a community may need to address. In support of their strategic plan, the Pointe-au-Chien Tribe has already been focusing on floodplain management and ecological evaluations. They are interested in expanding their work and adding a habitat restoration component to protect culturally significant resources.

GOMA is partnering with Lowlander Center and Louisiana Sea Grant to implement this unique plan.   Louisiana Sea Grant will work with Pointe-au-Chien tribal leaders to conduct a self-assessment for disaster preparedness that will leverage on-going work that integrates traditional ecological knowledge to map the Tribe’s perceived risk factors to coastal hazards as well as to design and implement a project to increase the tribe’s resiliency.  The Lowlander Center is going to serve as a consultant for the Tribe in assisting them to identify complementary habitat projects that will also increase the cultural heritage and resiliency. Together, the two organizations can ensure the projects meet the highest priority needs of the Tribe. 

 “We are excited to implement such an important project with our new partners BHP and the Pointe-au-Chien.  It is what GOMA likes to do; “hands-on” programs that provide real results. By bringing together the right partners, we work toward our common goal to ensure a healthy and resilient Gulf of Mexico region for many years to come,” said Laura Bowie, Executive Director, GOMA.

Much of this work cannot be accomplished without the necessary funding to implement it. In 2015, BHP implemented a Social Investment Framework that focuses on three themes: Governance, Human Capability & Social Inclusion, and the Environment. Through the support of BHP, the Alliance and Pointe-au-Chien can take their work one step further. Once additional projects are identified, the partners will implement critical resilience planning and restoration of crucial habitat.

"We like the approach of going into the community to work side by side on issues that are important to them. The fact that the Pointe-au-Chien Tribe has been working on their sustainability puts them ahead in the process. This makes our investment that much richer,” said Kristen Ray, BHP Gulf of Mexico General Manager.

BHP likes to make social investments in communities where they operate. They also look for long-term investment opportunities that allow for real change. With the help of BHP, GOMA, Louisiana Sea Grant, and Lowlander Center will be able to stay engaged with the Pointe-au-Chien for three years and beyond; providing the opportunity to implement necessary restoration and resilience activities needed to protect the region’s rich culture and history.

“Becoming partners with BHP will give us the ability to implement the projects we have been wanting to do with the community, but not able to get off the ground due to funding. We will now be able to start and finish the green house teaching center and get other projects done. We are very grateful to both GOMA and BHP. Had it not been for GOMA we probably would not be partners with BHP,” said Elder Theresa Dardar, Pointe-au-Chien Tribe.