Chris Brunet, a member of the Jean Charles Choctaw Nation, has spent all 57 years of his life on Isle de Jean Charles, an island off the coast of Louisiana. Brunet says, “if you were to ask me 20 something years ago, if I would have still been living on the island, I could say, yes, I would, a definite yes.”
But, things have changed over the years. Rising seas, sinking ground, and erosion of the coast have contributed to Isle de Jean Charles losing 98% of its landmass. Last year, hurricane Ida devastated the homes on the island and Brunet even had to sleep in a tent for 19 days after the storm, until a local organization donated some trailers to residents.
The state of Louisiana is offering island residents, past and present, an opportunity to relocate. With a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the state has built a new subdivision 40 miles north of the island, called The New Isle. Brunet decided to move, but it’s a decision that he has not made peace with. “You know, that kind of hurts to be put in that position because I really love living on Isle de Jean Charles,” he says.
The resettlement plan has been controversial. When it came time to make plans for relocation, some members of the Choctaw tribe say they were left out of the decision making process. “We had all the plans set up and once money was granted, the state took over and the tribe had no more say so,” says Démé Naquin, chief of the Jean Charles Choctaw Nation. The Louisiana Office of Community Development says it consulted many stakeholders, including the tribe, in the design and construction.
In our season finale we dig into the complicated story of what happened to Isle de Jean Charles and we explore what retreating from our homes could mean for the rest of us, even those of us who don’t think we’re at risk.