Before moving to Florida in 2020, I lived in Louisiana for eleven years. I took my first pottery class in New Orleans in 2013. Five years later in 2018, I was listening to NPR one morning and heard a story about ancient pottery shards washing away into the Gulf of Mexico due to rising sea levels. They interviewed Richie Blink, who gives boat tours of the Mississippi River Delta region and has been exploring those waters his entire life. He's witnessed the effects of climate change in a way that few of us have.
I got in touch with Richie and he took me and my husband to the Lemon Bay mound to see the endangered indigenous midden I had heard about on the radio. I learned on that trip that there are numerous sites along the Louisiana coast that hold indigenous history and are in the process of disappearing. Since then, the Atakapa-Ishak Chawasha of Grand Bayou Village and others have stepped in to create a living oyster reef around the site to help preserve this sacred land.
It was a profound experience, waking up before dawn to meet Richie in Empire, Louisiana, a small fishing town on the Gulf of Mexico, and riding to that tiny, vulnerable patch of land surrounded by water. Blink is a native South Louisianan who has observed the changes caused by fossil fuel industries and climate change over the course of his lifetime. It was interesting to learn about indigenous ceramics practices, specifically the addition of ground seashells to temper their clay. It's fascinating to imagine the way native peoples interacted with the land before the age of oil refineries which have had a devastating effect on the coastal wetlands of Louisiana. I also find so much meaning in participating in the ancient practice of creating ceramic objects, just like out ancestors did.
Get in touch with Richie Blink to explore Louisiana's wetlands: www.deltadiscoverytours.com
Support the First People's Conservation Council of Louisiana: fpcclouisiana.org/