Portland State University. Department of Geography
Term of Graduation
Date of Publication
Master of Science (M.S.) in Geography
Indians of North America -- Relocation -- Louisiana -- Ile à Jean Charles, Land settlement -- Louisiana, Place attachment, Environmental justice
1 online resource (xi, 113 pages)
The State of Louisiana and the national media have claimed that the community resettlement of Isle de Jean Charles (IDJC) is an example of a 'model resettlement' for communities experiencing the impacts of climate change. At the outset, the project was advocated and led by the tribal leadership of the Isle de Jean Charles Band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe. Although, through the course of the resettlement the supposed partnership between the State of Louisiana and the Tribe has dissolved. This study seeks to provide a robust and in-depth understanding of the planning and implementation process of the IDJC resettlement to inform future climate relocations.
To interrogate the power dynamics and motivations of different actors, I employed a multiple-methods approach involving discourse and content analysis to examine the policy, cartographic, and media narratives of place and their material implications for the resettlement plans, process, and possible future outcomes. I present a three-part theoretical framework that incorporates Indigenized Environmental Justice, sense of place theory, and critical cartography to interrogate rootedness, power, and the construction of place on Isle de Jean Charles and in the resettlement community, the New Isle.
I found that while the State of Louisiana uses multiple forms of outreach and engagement within the planning process of the IDJC resettlement, this ultimately leads to the erasure of the Tribal community through multiple layers of injustice. The findings revealed several key differences in the discourse between the state and tribal resettlement policies including the goals around a 'holistic' resettlement, the roles of water and wetlands, and the definitions of key words such as 'community' and 'stakeholder'. These narratives were further made real through topographic maps and the media articles which presented two contested narratives of place--an Indigenous perspective and a settler colonial understanding. Ultimately, it was the State of Louisiana, not the Tribe, who exerted greater power in the shaping of the resettlement plans and processes to fit their constructed meanings of place. In this way, the IDJC resettlement is a model of resettlement which reinforced settler colonial practices and perpetuated environmental injustices on the Isle de Jean Charles Band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe.
I call for deeper scrutiny of the language and discourses used within community resettlement plans in the future. In order to address previous (and current) harms due to displacement, I make further recommendations to amend the relationship between the US and Tribal communities in ways which fosters Indigenous sovereignty and Indigenized environmental justice. Finally, I propose the reconceptualization of resettlement as an opportunity for regeneration as 'site expansion' and not site abandonment.
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Sullivan, Meghan Elizabeth, "Erasure through Engagement: The Community Resettlement of Isle de Jean Charles" (2022). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6031.