Much has already been said concerning the resiliency of South Louisianans in the face of adversity. Still bearing the scars from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Grand Bayou Village has also had to endure the oil spill debacle that nearly wiped out the local fishing industry, depriving many of their livelihood and means to provide for their families.More recently came the fury of hurricane Isaac, rolling up the bayou like a juggernaut seeking to destroy everything in its path. The resulting devastation believed to have been more destructive even than the wreckage left behind by Katrina. But, until you experience it firsthand, it is impossible to fully grasp the determination exhibited by the residents of South Plaquemines Parish to stay in the homes that have been theirs for as long as anyone can remember.
I had the honor of being allowed to sit in on a meeting of the Chaoucha tribe as they formally recognized Chief Donielle Ancar Brinkley as the tribal representative in Grand Bayou Village. The tribe is made up of returning residents of the village as well as residents who have stayed and endured the multiple disasters that have hit the area. The Chaoucha tribe of Grand Bayou Village is just one of several Native American tribes in South Louisiana that have joined together as the First People’s Conservation Council and focused on the recognition and restoration of native rights and privileges. Bennie Ancar, the elected president and spokesperson for the council, dedicates the majority of his time to deal with state and federal agencies in the long and involved process of grant application for funds to repair the damage left in the tempest’s wake.
The rebuilding that is proceeding in the village includes a church to replace the one destroyed by Katrina. The steeple was rescued from the original church and lays on the bank waiting for the new structure to be built under it. Pastor Bennie Ancar and his wife, Geraldine, have already initialized the establishment of a food bank housed in a corner of the living room in their home while waiting for the proper permits and permissions to reconstruct the Grand Bayou Light Tabernacle across the canal. Until then, services will continue to be held in the homes of residents, the members arriving by boat from up and down the canal and tying up to the makeshift docks that are all that is left in Isaac’s wake.
On the day of my visit, large piles of debris lined the canal, waiting for the long-overdue cleanup promised by authorities after the deluge. Even so, there were children playing along the banks as if it was all they knew. Indeed, for some it is since they were born just before or after Katrina’s devilish visit to the bayou. And though many were displaced by the catastrophic events of the last decade, some have made their way back home, trickling back to the bayou in much the same way the tide recedes back into the marsh. Today, their spirits bolstered by the fact that one of the first to return to the disconsolate area was the pastor and community leader, the united inhabitants of Grand Bayou stand resolute as ever against the threats of hell and high water. They have survived both on more than one occasion. They will remain. They will endure. They will prosper.
© 2013 G. Scott Brinkley. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.