Livelihoods and ‘Lifeways’: discourses about land in managed retreat policies in coastal Louisiana

Authors: Meghan Sullivan*, Portland State University, Idowu Ajibade, Assistant Professor, Portland State University
Topics: Global Change, Hazards and Vulnerability, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: Managed retreat, land, place, climate change adaptation, policy analysis, Isle de Jean Charles
Session Type: Virtual Guided Poster
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 53
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Labeled as “America’s First Climate Refugees” the residents of Isle de Jean Charles (IDJC) have gained notoriety for their community participation in managed retreat from an island off the coast of Louisiana to a mainland location outside of the 100 year floodplain. The IDJC was once considered a potential successful model for climate-related resettlement in the United States. However due to disagreements between the State of Louisiana and the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe, tribal leadership has removed its support of the project. To understand the complexities behind this relocation process, we used qualitative content analysis to compare Louisiana’s State of Adaptation for the Future (LA SAFE) and Louisiana Office of Community Development’s IDJC resettlement policies to the Tribe’s resettlement toolkit (Preserving Our Place). Findings revealed that while land and place were frequently discussed in all policy documents the meanings each group ascribed to these concepts were very different. The LA SAFE policies described land as a resource for economic, social, and cultural livelihoods that provided material and tacit benefits to the coastal residents. This contrasted with the IDJC Tribe’s reciprocal relationship to the land which fostered ‘lifeways’ and was necessary for the sovereignty, physical reunification, and cultural survival of the group. These results suggest that while stakeholders may use similar terms in managed retreat plans and discourse, their goals may be shaped by two irreconcilable world views which can influence the implementation and ultimately, the success or failure of relocation plans.

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