Documenting A Disappearing Island – A Piece Of Louisiana History Will Soon Be Lost
Isle de Jean Charles may not be a familiar destination to many Louisiana residents. In the very near future the island will be no more and will become only a memory to the people who have called this island their ancestral home for generations.
The island in Terrebone Parish is slowly shrinking. In the middle 50’s it’s estimated the island covered an area of 22,000 acres and was home to hundreds of people. Today the population of the island has shrunk along with the size of the island. According the latest reports about 70 people still inhabit the island. Its size has diminished to roughly 320 acres.
Many of islands inhabitants are members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe of Native Americans. Their ancestors settled the island after fleeing the Trail of Tears. A University of Louisiana at Lafayette professor is hoping to document the story of the island and it’s cultural past to the present.
There are many tribe members that have come to me with pictures or articles or things that they’ve collected that they’ve been very open and willing to share with me so that I can help document their history.
Those are the words of Dr. Heather Stone. She told the Louisiana Radio Network that many of islands residents left the island when the only road between it and the mainland became flooded and impassable.
Some people had to move in order to be able to work or for their children to go to school. So even though they didn’t want to leave their ancestral home, they didn’t really have a choice.
A federal grant of $48 million will help the remaining residents relocate. Dr. Stone says the people of the tribe have been very helpful in helping her document their story and the story of the island.