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Four Directions Relief Project Progress Report 12/16/05

**Four Directions Relief Project*
*Progress Report 12/16/05
Louisiana Coastal Tribes Solidarity*
four-directions.gif
*GRATITUDE*
/Gratitude and thanks to the elders, leaders, tribal councils and
community members of the coastal tribes who make this solidarity work
possible//. Special thanks to Chief Albert Naquin, Ronald and Cheryl
Courteaux, and Brenda Dardar Robichaux for opening their homes to Four
Directions organizers.// Thank you to all the volunteers, donors and
collaborators who have made a difference. All thanks to the Ancestors,
guides, and the Great Spirit for helping us walk mindfully during this
time of change. Prayers to the four sacred directions: East, South, West
and North - which our organization seeks to honor. /

*FOUR DIRECTIONS OVERVIEW*
Four Directions was founded by spiritual activist Naomi Archer and medic
Dave Pike who began work with tribal leaders and community members in
mid September through the efforts of Common Ground. Four Directions
started operations on October 1st, 2005 in solidarity with Louisiana's
coastal tribes and immediately began to facilitate material and
volunteer resources to their communities. The Four Directions webpage
(www.intuitivepath.org/relief.html) went online on October 7th to build
awareness and coordinate donations. Less than three weeks later on
October 25th, Four Directions began field operations in Southern Louisiana.

Our solidarity action with the coastal tribes is divided up into three
basic areas:
1) Short term relief and recovery of homes and community.
2) Long term relief/recovery/rebuild/raise of homes and community.
3) Solidarity work for cultural preservation, tribal empowerment and
autonomy.

Four Directions is currently drafting a comprehensive Strategic Plan
document to assist outside non-governmental organizations (NGOs), relief
groups and individuals to work in collaboration with tribal priorities,
culture and self-determination. We believe the path to true solidarity
is driven not by outside intentions, but by tribal needs and decision
making.

*COMMUNITY OVERVIEW*
Four Directions is working in solidarity with the leaders, tribal
councils and members of five coastal tribes - The Bayou Lafourche, Isle
Jean Charles, and Grand Caillou/Dulac bands of the Biloxi-Chitimacha
Confederation of Muskogees (BCCM), Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe, and
United Houma Nation (UHN). The BCCM tribes comprise approximately 4000
community members, PACIT has 680 members, and UHN claims 16,000. The
2000 US Census reports almost 16,200 Native Americans in 18 southern
Louisiana parishes. Six in ten Native Americans in Louisiana live in the
southern coastal and bayou parishes.

Louisiana has the highest rate of poverty in the nation. Many of the
indian communities in the storm affected area have poverty rates of up
to 80% and less than 5% of high school graduates go on to attend
college. Indians have historically been considered the lowest class of
people and in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes - were not allowed to
attend high school until the late 1960 or early 1970s. The word
"sauvage" or savage, is still a word found in the vocabulary of some
non-indian bayou residents.

In the course of assisting tribal members, Four Directions has also
reached out to help non-indian residents of diverse backgrounds in the
affected areas. We maintain a policy of free and equal distribution of
storm aid to any person in need within the area regardless of race,
ethnicity or tribal affiliation.

*COMMUNITY NEEDS*
To date, Four Directions has been focusing work in the indian
communities in Terrebonne Parish. In the next month we will be expanding
coverage over Terrebonne and moving into Lafourche Parish. Over 1/3 of
all Native Americans in Louisiana live along the bayous in Terrebonne
and Lafourche. Community assessments performed by the tribal leaders
with help from Four Directions is ongoing. A brief summary of damage by
community (east to west) is listed below. This assessment does not
include those indian communities closer to New Orleans as we have not
had the capacity to begin assessment in those areas.

*_Bayou Lafourche_*
"We're fending for ourselves best we can...this time it's a little more
overwhelming." BCCM Chief Randy Verdun

The indian communities of Bayou Laforurche in Lafourche Parish are
located just south of the town of Golden Meadow on Highway 1. The Bayou
Lafourche Band of BCCM contains approximately 600 members and there are
also members of the UHN in the community. This community was protected
from flooding from a large drainage levee that did not break. However,
this community was located closer to the path of Hurricane Katrina and
received more wind/rain damage to roofs. At least one family is displaced.

*_Upper and Lower Pointe-au-Chien_*
"We're toughing it out...knowing we have to go through it again - it's
tough." PACIT Chairman Charles Verdin

Upper and Lower Pointe-au-Chien (PAC) sit alongside Highway 665 just
east of the town of Montegut and south of Bourg. The homes on the east
side of Bayou Chien, a body of water which divides the community, are
located in Lafourche Parish. About 2000 people live in the area,
approximately 2/3 being Native American. Lower Pointe-au-Chien received
up to 8 feet of water during Hurricane Rita and roof/rain damage from
Katrina. At least 40 homes were taken over by water. Nearly every home
on the east side of Bayou Chien (called Oak Pointe) was flooded. For
elders, large families, and the sick - these storms have been a
tremendous challenge. Some have moved in past years to Upper
Pointe-au-Chien or closer to Houma creating diaspora.

*_Isle Jean Charles_*
"There is no money and no materials... we don't want to loose all our
people." Isle Jean Charles Chief Albert Naquin

Isle Jean Charles (known as The Island) can be reached by taking Island
Road off of Hwy. 665 just north of lower PAC. The Island is sinking
into the Gulf of Mexico and has in effect, become one of Louisiana's
barrier islands to storm effects. It received up to 8 feet of water
compounding the misery of past storm damage that has never fully been
repaired. More than half of the 80 or so homes on Isle Jean Charles
received some sort of damage from the two storms. Often compared to
living "on the rez", many of the Island's residents live below the
poverty line and long term community cohesion is at risk.

*_Bobtown / Grand Caillou / Dulac / Shrimpers Row_ *
"Down the bayou is worst....some people are not returning." Grand
Caillou Dulac Band of BCCM Chair Marlene Foret.

This area is a thin linear ridge about 20 miles long bisected by Highway
57 on one side of the bayou and Shrimpers Row on the other. There are
approximately 50 linear miles of roads with a population of 6000-8000
people. Forty percent of the population is Native American and over 80%
live below the poverty line. Nearly all houses that were not on pilings
received flood damage. In the worse areas, houses that were not elevated
at least 8 feet high received flood damage and some homes/trailers were
moved off of their foundations. Numerous others sustained roof/rain
damage. Many people lost everything. A large number of residents are
displaced from their homes and are not living in the community.

*_Lower Dularge (from south levee to Falgout Canal) _*
"When our tribal members are in the middle of all of this...they are
really not taking care of themselves." UHN Chairwoman Brenda Dardar
Robichaux.

Over 100 homes sustained flood damage with numerous others sustaining
roof/rain damage. . Many of the residents of lower Dularge are displaced
from their homes and are not living in the community. Two families have
been living in a local church. An isolated community, repair and
reconstruction is suffering from a lack of relief volunteer resources
and the absence of working people from their homes. Most people in Bayou
Dularge work in the commercial fishing or shipping industries. Like the
other communities, poverty is rampant.

*
SUCCESS STORIES*
Since October 1st, Four Directions has facilitated in-kind support from
13 Native American tribes or organizations, 45 businesses or
non-governmental organizations, 7 schools or universities, and over 100
individuals. This does not include the considerable in-kind support that
has been donated directly to the tribes as a result of the Four
Directions website and our public relations efforts in indian and
non-indian media. A partial list of these supporters can be found on the
Four Directions website at www.intuitivepath.org/success.html.

In collaboration with our tribal partners, NGO partners, and a very
limited number of volunteers, Four Directions has helped to facilitate:
~ 25 tons of food and material aid collected and distributed
~ 6 home repair projects including 2 temporary housing projects for
families made homeless by the storms
~ 30 classroom teaching kits to local schools
~ 20 large and small appliances bought and distributed
~ 3 tons of trash collected
~ 600+ holiday meals distributed
~ Stories or interviews in 12+ media outlets including Indian Country
Today, Native News, and Democracy Now!

Partners that helped make these success stories happen include Plenty
International, Seventh Generation, Conscious Alliance, Lumbee Nation of
North Carolina, Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican, Barefoot Doctors
Academy, Rainbow Family, Food Not Bombs, Counter Current Coalition,
Common Ground, Dr. Robin Rose, Unitarian Universalist Church of
Asheville, Democracy Now! and UNICEF.

We hope to secure a fiscal sponsorship arrangement with Barefoot Doctors
Academy in December. This will enhance our ability to procure grant
funding and accept the larger donations that are needed to increase our
organizational capacity.

Four Directions staff are currently undertaking grant writing efforts,

both for Four Directions as an organization and to share grant writing
and project management skills with the tribal leadership to better
enhance their ability to meet their own needs..

We are in the process of creating an updated website which can be used
as an information hub utilizing the latest web technologies. Our new
website address is www.eswn.org.

The developing Strategic Plan will help to coordinate collaborations
among outside organizations and the tribes to meet diverse needs such as
cultural preservation, land rights, environmental health, and tribal
recognition.

*THE CONTINUING CHALLENGE*
Despite our best efforts, we are not meeting the immense need of these
communities. We are critically understaffed, and underfunded. At this
time we maintain one full time, unpaid organizer on the ground with an
additional volunteer organizer who leaves on December 27th. Our pleas
for additional volunteer organizing assistance have not been met.
Skilled carpenter and contractor volunteers have been few which
drastically affects our ability to perform home repair and rebuilding
jobs. We are fortunate to have many volunteers scheduled for the first
four months of 2006 but require monetary assistance of approximately
$500 a month plus utilities to procure a rental home for an office and
the considerable volunteer housing needs.

While the quality and energy of our solidarity action is high, the low
level of organizational capacity affects the number of people we are
able to serve. We continue to find people in crisis, and we are working
alongside tribal leadership to meet these needs. Without dedicated long
term funding and assistance, our solidarity project will lack the
capacity to meet the growing challenge.

*MAKE A DIFFERENCE*
To help make a difference in our work with the Native American tribes of
coastal Louisiana, please contact Naomi Archer at 828.230.1404 or email
fourdirections (at) riseup.net. You can visit our existing webpage at
http://www.intuitivepath.org/relief.html. Donations can be sent to: Four
Directions Relief Project, P.O. Box 1059, Bourg, LA 70343.
 
 


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