SINK::Episode 4::It Belongs to You

Here we are again. A month post Ida. Another hurricane. Another failure of infrastructure.
Confession: I wasn’t born in Lousiana. My people aren’t from here. So it feels extra important that listen. That I listen to the people who were here before me. And the people before them. And before them? The land. The water. I pilgrimage to the river and listen to the sound of the waves lap against the rocks at the End of the World, where the Industrial Canal feeds into the Mississippi.

If you cross over the Industrial Canal, you’re in the Lower 9th Ward, where John Taylor grew up. John is an artist and a naturalist and a lifelong resident of the Lower 9. And if you keep going downriver out of town, past some petrochemical plants, you arrive at Monique Verdin’s studio. Monique is an artist on her ancestral lands, the land of the Houma people.

In previous episodes of SINK, a series exploring subsidence and evictions in New Orleans, we’ve talked about the plight of landlords and tenants, an already fraught situation exacerbated by the pandemic. For this episode, I want to address Environmental Eviction. When the land is no longer habitable and people are forced to move. But what causes this change? I talked to John and Monique for their perspective. This is the Antenna Signals Podcast, a podcast exploring the people and ideas that flow into and out of New Orleans. We’re on Episode 4 of our Series on Evictions and Subsidence. This is SINK:: Episode 4::It Belongs to You.

Thank you to Monique Verdin and John Taylor. Shana Griffin and Shea Shackleford provided editorial support. This piece was produced by Marie Lovejoy.

Music in this episode is by Circus Marcus, Selva de Mar, Aaron Ximm and Neil Cross.

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Land Acknowledgement by Monique Verdin, Houma Nation, 2021 Juneteenth

“There would be no land to acknowledge upon which you now rest if it were not for the Mississippi River. Indigenous Peoples have respected this ever-shifting fluid state at the end of one of the world’s largest river systems, inhabiting the high grounds, along the bayous of Bvlbancha, for centuries, as long as there has been land in these territories.

Bvlbancha, “place of many tonges” as the Chahta called it, a place of many languages, know better as the global port city rebranded as New Orleans.

Ancestral and current Indigenous stewards of these lands and waters, are Chahta, Chitimatcha, Houma, Biloxi, Washa, Chawasha, Bayougoula, Tchoupitoulas, Tunica, Atakapa-Ishak, Caddo, Natchez, Acolapissa, Taensa, and other nations; And all those nations that were erased or assimilated before colonial records had a change to document their existence.

The Atakapa-Ishak called these high grounds, where a crossroads of waterways provide access to sites of sacred trade and ceremony ‘the big village,’ Nun Ush. A territory of biological and cultural diversity, where water travels through, looking to be purified as it makes its water cycle journey back to the sea or skies.

This place is also where many People from Senegambia, the Blight of Benin, Bight of Biafra, and West-Central Africa and other African Nations were brought against their will, enslaved upon these lands. A place were Immigrants and Indigenous peoples from around the world have found and continue to find themselves, due to desires for a better life or nonnegotiable destinies, in this complicated and infinitely beautiful powerpoint on the planet known in the Lower Mississippi River Delta.”