United Houma Nation to Work with Tulane University and Others to Address Changing Communities

With the rapid changes taking place in the most coastal communities within the Tribe, the United Houma Nation (UHN) assembled a team of researchers to hold an initial think tank in early 2019 to discuss how to approach the needs of the community and conduct research that will directly benefit tribal citizens and preserve our culture and traditions.  From that initial meeting, Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine led the submission of a 3-year research project  submitted to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Gulf Research Program’s Thriving Communities Grants 5 funding opportunity.  The  $2.1 million research project was awarded and will begin soon with a diverse research team coming from various academic and community backgrounds to comprehensively focus on solutions to these problems.

This project is a community based participatory research design, meaning that community representatives are partners to the academic researchers in gathering information and interpreting the results.  More specifically, the community has a vested interest in these results and actively helps in the implementation.  The project focuses on how climate change impacts the UHN tribal community as a whole and focuses on applying innovative solutions.  The complexities of stressors such as land loss, changes to fisheries, rising sea levels, poor health outcomes, etc. all play a part in how tribal citizens make decisions to stay or go from their home communities.  Tribal leaders recognize that all of these factors impact our ability as UHN tribal citizens to fully participate in our culture and way of life.  Tribal leaders are excited for this project to help identify a community driven plan for addressing the complexities that escalated impacts of climate change are raising.  “This project is about working hand-in-hand with our people to navigate these challenges together and be stronger as a Nation for it,” stated Principal Chief August Creppel.

The academic research team working with the UHN will be Dr. Maureen Litchveld and Dr. Hannah Covert with Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Dr. Diane Austin and Dr. Ben McMahan with University of Arizona School of Anthropology, Dr. Matthew Bethel with Louisiana Sea Grant at Louisiana State University, Dr. Shanondora Billiot with the University of Illinois School of Social Work, and Dr. Monica Teets Farris and Dr. Marla Nelson with University of New Orleans Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology.  The goal for the funder is to ensure that the tools and interventions identifed by the UHN will ideally be replicable to other Gulf Coast communities facing similar issues.

The UHN will be seeking to fill several positions for this project (1 full-time, 1 part-time, and 2 contractual).  Be on the lookout for those notices along with the information needed to apply.

The Gulf Research Program was established at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine with $500 million of settlement funds paid out over five years (2013-2018) by the companies found responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

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