Detail from "the second line," a painting by Bob Graham. For more about the artist, click here.

Online Program

Community Based Participatory Research among Indigenous Louisiana Native American Tribes and “Cajun’s” Residing in Coastal Terrebonne Parish Louisiana as Related to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

*David Kurt Lirette, LSU Health Sciences Center School of Public Health 
John J. Estrada, Stanley S Scott Cancer Center, LSU Health Sciences Center 
Lanor Curole, United Houma Nation Vocational Rehabilitation Services 

Keywords: Louisiana, Native American Tribes, Cajuns, Community Based Participatory Research , Deepwater Horizon, Oil Spill, Biomonitoring

Terrebonne Parish, 40 miles southwest of New Orleans Louisiana whose irregular southernmost border interdigitates with the fertile waters of the Gulf of Mexico, has been subjected to channelization, industrial exploitation, subsidence, and erosion. The resultant ecosystems are subject to the effects of hurricanes, high tides, floods, prevailing winds, and heavy commercial and recreational use. Subsistence ‘farmers of the sea’ live, work, and play on these fragile fingers of land. These bayou communities have been populated for centuries by French speaking Caucasians and indigenous Native Americans. Being inseparable from their lands, they gain sustenance from local seafood and wild game. Although rich in heritage and resourceful of their natural surroundings, by most standards today many live in poverty, lack formal educations, and speak English as their second language. Their close knit society is suspicious of “outsiders” and the “government”. They historically have been ostracized, oppressed, denigrated, stigmatized, and politically ignored. Their meager political clout is marshaled by Tribal Councils with elected chiefs. Their simple lifestyle was disrupted by the events of April 20, 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon disaster resulted in an estimated infusion of 4.9 million barrels of crude oil and 1.8 million gallons of dispersants into the Gulf waters. The toxicity of these materials and their short and long term safety and health effects concerns these local residents. Our goal is to help these proud and resilient people through this environmental catastrophe and also monitor for long-term health effects using biomonitoring techniques. Researchers with intimate local knowledge identified key community government representatives and tribal leaders and made initial contact, built a framework of local facilitators, conducted meetings and identified a need for technical intermediaries and coaches to facilitate resource identification and utilization. Action plans are in process employing community based participatory research techniques with community based organizations, local “navigators”, and “snowball” recruitment to ensure effective participation and outreach, and to overcome difficulties posed by racial, language, educational, and cultural differences among this affected indigenous community. Funding for our long term relationship is pending EPA approval.

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