How Indigenous Leaders Are Building the Resistance to Louisiana’s Bayou Bridge Pipeline

by Anna Wagner

August 17, 2017

Water protectors at the L'eau Est La Vie (Water Is Life) camp are continuing in the tradition of Standing Rock and resisting the fossil fuel industry.

L'eau est la vie (Water is life)

Organizers at the L'eau est la vie (Water is life) camp in Southern Louisiana. Photo by Ethan Buckner.

Last month I had the honor of joining water protectors to open the L’eau Est La Vie (Water Is Life) camp in the swamps of Southern Louisiana.

I arrived at camp on a muggy, hot day. A tropical storm had just worked its way through the region and grey skies promised more thunderstorms. Despite the weather, folks were rooted in purpose and togetherness. People cooled off with fresh fruit and fans that read, “Another Gulf Is Possible.”

The L’eau Est La Vie camp is a hub of resistance to the Bayou Bridge pipeline the final southern leg of the Dakota Access Pipeline. “If built, the Bayou Bridge pipeline would cross Indigenous territory without our communities’ consent, threatening our water, our economy, our coastline, and our climate,” said Cherri Foytlin of Bold Louisiana.

Folks came from far and wide to open the camp Indigenous leaders, environmental justice communities, and allied groups. Water protectors at L’eau Est La Vie opened with 12 straight days of prayer, beginning with a traditional Mayan prayer ceremony led by Doña Teresa, a Maya Quiché elder and founder of COCIMH (Comite Civico Multicultural de Houston). 

L'eau est la vie (Water is life)

What brought me to camp is Greenpeace’s Movement Support Hub, our initiative to engage, support and collaborate with grassroots activists and communities. Greenpeace is also signed as on a partner to the national Stop Energy Transfer Partners coalition. Energy Transfer Partners — the company that put forward the disastrous Dakota Access Pipeline (and that is deeply tied to Trump) —  is now putting its resources into the controversial Bayou Bridge pipeline.

Hear from voices of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline resistance.

Jeffery U. Darensbourg, Atakapa-Ishak Nation: “Our tribe has lived in the Atchafalaya Basin for the last four and half thousand years, and that is where the Bayou Bridge is going to come through. That is where our culture comes from, it is part of who we are. I want you to know that the Indigenous people of Louisiana need your activism. We need people to stand up against this.”

Texas-based organizer Yudith Nieto: “Our communities struggle with similar issues, and the impact will be one in the same if we allow fossil fuel infrastructure to invade our communities. People who live off the land and the water understand and have a deep respect for our natural world. We just want to live off our land and shores, take care of our families and our communities and live healthy lives.”

Anne White Hat, Rosebud Lakota Nation: “Folks at Standing Rock took a beating for us, everyday. They suffered a lot of emotional trauma. A lot of it was trauma that had been in our DNA as Indigenous people we had suffered these things and survived these things.” She stressed the importance of “decolonizing everything … so that we can rebuild our nations and ourselves, because it is possible to do that.”

Jayeesha Dutta, Another Gulf Is Possible: “This land is already being sacrificed. Already we are losing a football field of land every 40 minutes. Already we have suffered the largest environmental catastrophe in U.S. history. This pipeline literally does not need to be build there is already enough infrastructure to transport oil. The only reason is for exploitation, extraction, and greed. If you care about people, the planet, and our survival we have to stop fossil fuel infrastructure and the exploitation of people.”

Cherri Foytlin, Bold Louisiana: “We have submitted comments, spoken out at hearings, and demanded proper environmental reviews and that our concerns will be taken seriously. None of this has happened. Energy Transfer Partners has swindled landowners, bought our politicians, and refused to address any of our communities’ needs. Enough is enough. If our leaders won’t stand up to stop this pipeline and protect our water, then we the people of Louisiana will.”

L'eau est la vie (Water is life)

The movement to put people over pipelines continues to grow.

Greenpeace is proud to stand in solidarity with the L’eau Est La Vie camp, and we’ll continue to highlight stories from their fight to protect their water, culture, and our climate from the fossil fuel industry. You can head to the official L’eau Est La Vie camp website for ways to support the water protectors.

By Anna Wagner

Anna Wagner is a senior national organizer with Greenpeace USA.

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