Stitching Hope for the Coast – Pointe-au-Chien garden2
July 22, 2018 by Dr. G
On the third day of our time at OCEANDOTCOMM, we loaded on to a bus and headed over to meet the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe (PACIT). I blogged previously about our visit and the incredible warmth and kindness we received from the tribal members – including an amazing dinner of home-cooked Louisiana food!
The tribal members provided us stories of their history, as well as their current challenges and what gives them hope. Below is the quilt I made, a simple table runner pattern, that tells the story I want to share about the land, plants, and family.
[To view additional stories from OCEANDOTCOMM participants, view this article on Women of the Bayou and blog post on Southern Fried Science.]
A fabric with a pattern of hands was selected for the back to represent a story from one of the members of the tribe. We learned from the PACIT that in this area, everyone spoke “Indian French” as their first language (sometimes as the only language), and each bayou has its own dialect. The PACIT does not have an Indian language that they speak, but this tribal member joked that the PACIT second language is speaking with their hands, which is what they have to do to signal and communicate with each other when they are out on the shrimp boats. This story brought a smile to all of our faces and a laugh from the group, and I felt this fabric was a perfect addition to the story of the PACIT.
The dark blue on the border, as the first and last stripe, and as the smaller stripes in-between the patterned fabrics represents one of the official colors of Louisiana (the other official colors are white and gold).
Stripe #1 represents the land that the Pointe-au-Chien live off of (yes, they also live off the water, but this story focuses on the farming of the land).
Stripe #2 represents the rising sea level, one of the reasons behind coastal loss for the PACIT.
Stripe #3 is a white pattern with dots, representing the introduction of salt from the rising water level.
Stripe #4 shows mudcracks, representing a land that can no longer be farmed the same way or with the same crops, because of saltwater intrusion. Their fruit trees and pecan trees are examples of what can no longer grow in this area from the saltwater.
Stripe #5 shows packets of seeds, representing a plan to continue to grow as a community in this location. The PACIT are clear that they want to adapt in place, knowing that plants will struggle to grow with the saltwater intrusion.
Stripe #6 represents the tools that the PACIT will use to source their food by planting community gardens.
Stripe #7 is one of the new additions to their plant growing – using elevated greenhouses. (OK – so there isn’t a perfect fabric to represent this, but go with me… these are green buildings in air – you can see it, right?)
Stripe #8 is for the vegetables being grown by the tribe.
Stripe #9 is a plant-patterned fabric representing the traditional medicinal plants that have been used by the tribe for generations. The PACIT are planning to build a medicinal garden, as the plants are getting more difficult to find in the wild. The color red is known to represent joy, life, and health.
Stripe #10 is for the strong sense of family among the PACIT they shared during our visit. The adults of the PACIT wish to teach their children gardening and expose them to their land and culture – they want to hold on to the sense of family. And it is clear that tribal members want to give back to their own tribe by trying to restore the environment. For example, we heard from 20-year old PACIT member Pete who is currently in college studying environmental science. He has seen a barrier island disappear in his lifetime and wants to try to restore the environment. The woven pattern represents the strong family ties, and the color red is for determination, passion, and strength.
This is my story of coastal optimism – a story of an Indian Tribe that is committed to remaining on their ancestral land to grow traditional plants, requiring adaptation and restoration. The quilt measures 38 inches wide by 17 inches in height with fabric from Spoonflower (online) and JOANN Fabric & Craft (Springfield and Glen Mills).
So thank you to the members of the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe for sharing your time, your history, and your your hospitality. Your strong sense of family and determination was the inspiration that led me to this story!
This blog post was created from OCEANDOTCOMM and supported by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON).
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