Gulf Coast Indian tribes – among those hit hardest by BP oil disaster – face aid crisis too
As if an oil spill of historic proportions, one that threatens to end their entire way of life, weren’t bad enough, now comes this news from an Indian Country Today story by Rob Capriccioso that some of the tribes along the Gulf Coast may be ineligible for federal aid:
The Houma Nation is one of several tribes facing an uphill battle. Most tribal citizens in immediate danger are members of state recognized tribes; there are 10 in Louisiana, and four federally recognized ones.
Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for the Department of the Interior, explained that as of June 2, federally recognized tribes seemed to be free of oil complications. She said the agency has received “no reports that federally recognized tribal natural resources are impacted by the spill.” She added that Interior has reached out to all federally recognized tribes in the region, including those from Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.
Shin Inouye, a spokesman for the White House, said tribal leaders have been receiving updates from the White House, and have been invited to participate in update calls with government officials.
State tribes, meanwhile, have been left more to their own devices, with some even trying to work with BP itself to lend a hand.
The BP disaster represents “a dark day for our people,” Brenda Dardar-Robichaux, principal chief of the United Houma Nation,tells Capriccioso. “We’re being hurt economically, environmentally and culturally. … It’s a total assault on who we are, our way of being.”
The 17,000 Houma peole are recognized by the state, and live a mostly subsistence lifestyle – one that they worry will be destroyed for years to come.
“It’s sort of a love/hate relationship we have with the oil companies, as many of our members rely on them for work, but they also see the impact the companies have had on the area over the years. This latest spill makes that impact all the more difficult,” Dardar-Robichaux says.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that oil companies once petitioned the Bureau of Indian Affairs against recognition of the tribe,
By Gwen Florio