Growing up on the Bayou: An 18-year-old reflects on drastic changes

My name is Baley Martinez. I am from the community of Grand Caillou, in Dulac, Louisiana (south of Houma). I am a part of the 17,000 member tribe United Houma Nation. I was born and raised in this community and I am currently 18 yrs old.  Already in my lifetime, I have seen the drastic changes in the bayou region of South Louisiana.

When I was two months old, Hurricane Andrew hit the coast of South Louisiana and that was one of the worst hurricanes this part of the region has seen. My grandmother's house and property had wind and water damage, like many others, because of this category four/five hurricane, and that was the first time her house had seen water.  Ever since then, with every hurricane that has hit this region, we flood.  The part of the region where I stay is known as "up the bayou," meaning it is further inland from the Gulf of Mexico than “down the bayou”, and was known not to ever flood. Well, that isn't the case anymore. Every forty five minutes, South Louisiana, loses a "football field" of land, marsh, protection, and I see the affects from my family’s home.

Our home is surrounded, bayou to bayou.  The front bayou is known as Grand Caillou and back bayou is a "man made" canal, built by oil companies for their pipelines. The back canal where we used to take the boat out to Lake Boudreaux now has a dead end and a man made levee.  The levee does not block any water from coming on the property, but does block us from going out on the boat to hunt , fish, trap, and trawl. 

Grand Caillou, Dulac, has a little to no levee protection.  The government wonders why we keep calling for help.  People that was born and raised or lived on the bayou most of their life moved away to the city of Houma and surrounding areas. Our people are suffering.  BP promised to pay back for the loss we had in the last year, but we have seen very little. I am one of the ones that will not leave the bayou, but to get a higher education. My home will always be here.  I would like to raise my family like I’ve been raised; in such a culturally strong family. Even if I would have to use a boat to get to my house.

But please don’t let it get that bad! Please help us restore coastal Louisiana before it’s too late.

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