In South Louisiana, we live on a power point of our planet. A place where water comes to be purified. A place where 1,000-year-old cypress trees once grew. A place where fish still come to spawn and birds to nest. A place close to the Gulf of Mexico but where, as the old people used to say, “sweet water” could still be found that was fresh and good to drink.
There is no sweet water down the bayou in Terrebonne Parish anymore.
I’ve been trying to make sense of the strange beauty left here—the magic that is entangled in the ugliest underbelly of a plantation economy surrendered to the petro-chemical industry. Against this landscape, I see my Houma cousins coming back to Pointeaux-Chenes on the weekends and my jardin sauvage on Bayou Road. I see indigenous and métis people reclaiming New Orleans’ original name, Bulbancha. I remind myself of my grandmother’s story of her aunt who still crossed the Mississippi River every day in a pirogue. I see connections of unexpected, non-coincidental, life-affirming experiences that fuse the stories of our ancestors with our hopes and prayers for a better future.
Monique Michelle Verdin is a native daughter of southeast Louisiana. Her intimate documentation of the Mississippi River Deltas’ indigenous Houma nation exposes the complex interconnectedness of environment, economics, culture, climate and change. Her photography has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and is included in The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous, Yale University Press (2008) and Nonesuch Records’ Habitat for Humanity benefit album Our New Orleans (2005).
Rachel Breunlin is the director of the Neighborhood Story Project. She is currently the ethnographer-in-residence in the Anthropology Department at the University of New Orleans where she teaches courses on public culture and collaborative ethnography.