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Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha Wins Gulf Guardian Award

11/30/2017
Contact Information: 
Joe Hubbard or Jennah Durant at 214-665-2200 or r6press@epa.gov

DALLAS – (Nov. 30, 2017) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha won a first-place 2017 Gulf Guardian Award in the Environmental Justice/Cultural Diversity Category. They are recognized for resettling their coastal community due to land loss.

Ben Scaggs, Director of Gulf of Mexico Program said, “Whether for individual recreational use or as an economic engine supporting a wide variety of jobs and industry, the Gulf of Mexico is a vibrant yet vulnerable ecosystem. Protecting this national resource requires innovative approaches and proactive measures. The Gulf Guardian award winners are paving the way for ‘out of the box’ thinking and replicable practices.”  

The Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw is in the process of resettling their community further inland as a result of tremendous land loss. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a grant that will cover a portion of the cost. Once completed, the resettlement will bring together the now-scattered tribal population while also restoring the ecosystem at the new site.

The goal of the resettlement is to maintain and strengthen the tribe’s safety, collective identity, social stability, and contribution to the region. Traditional ways of life will be rekindled and reinforced with tribal members living in one community. The design and layout of the new community is inspired by the “tala,” Choctaw for palmetto, because of its symbolic and functional importance in the tribe’s traditional lifeways. A successful resettlement will integrate historical traditions, novel technologies, and state-of-the-art resilience measures to create proactive solutions for this time of change and into the future. 

These efforts will not only benefit the Isle de Jean Charles community, but will also inform other communities that decide to relocate in response to increasing coastal environmental hazards. Using tradition, innovation, and teaching and sharing activities will further enhance tribal livelihoods and build on their resilience and social capacity. The new site will be a self-sustaining, practical, affordable, living demonstration of a community-led resettlement, with residential, agriculture, agroforestry and aquaculture uses.

The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. First, second and third place awards are given in seven categories: individual, business/industry, youth environmental education, civic/nonprofit organizations, cultural diversity/environmental justice, partnership and bi-national efforts. This year’s ceremony will be held on November 30, 2017, at the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort in Point Clear, Alabama.

The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

For more about EPA’s Gulf of Mexico Program: https://www.epa.gov/gulfofmexico

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