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Lousiana Jean Charles Choctaw Nation members reflect on their vanishing homeland


Hey. It's Friday, which is when we hear from StoryCorps. In Louisiana, members of the Jean Charles Choctaw Nation are losing their homes to a vanishing coastline. They're leaving the land where they lived and farmed for generations because of stronger and more frequent storms. Albert Naquin, the tribe's chief, came to StoryCorps with his nephew, Deme Naquin Jr., To talk about growing up on Isle de Jean Charles in the '50s and '60s.

ALBERT NAQUIN: We could go in anybody's house and get a drink of water or grab something to eat and then go out and play. It was like a big ol' happy family. People took care of each other.

DEME NAQUIN JR: And it was peaceful, quiet.

A NAQUIN: It was beautiful, yeah. We had some palmettos and grapefruit trees. Life was easy. Life was simple. Life was great. But I didn't want to admit that the island was disappearing.

D NAQUIN: So when did you start to notice the island was changing?

A NAQUIN: I could see that when we'd have a hurricane, the tidal wave would uproot the marsh. And then it was all open water. I remember Audrey in 1957, and then Hilda in '64, Betsy in '65 and Carmen in '74. But Ida - Ida, a year ago, that's the worst hurricane that I've seen. We realized that we was washing away. And now where we used to walk at, now we use boat to travel in. And where we used to trap and raise cattle, now we shrimp. So what concerns you most right now?

D NAQUIN: My kids and grandkids won't have a chance to live on the island. I didn't have everything. I didn't have name brand shoes. But I was dressed. I went to school. I had food on the table because my dad worked hard. And I learned to survive. So what gives you hope?

A NAQUIN: After hurricanes, we all come together in support of each other. And I think we still believe in each other.


INSKEEP: Albert and Deme Naquin Jr. Their tribe is working to move the entire community to higher ground. This interview will be archived at the Library of Congress.

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Von Diaz