Monday, December 24, 2012

Our People Are Worth the Risks: A Southern Queer Agenda from the Margins and the Red States, By Southerners On New Ground (SONG)

Reprinted from the SONG website and from the Scholar & Feminist Online, a webjournal published by the Barnard Center for Research on Women
In the best parts of our tradition as LGBTQ people for liberation, we have resisted assimilation. We have held die-ins, we have risked our lives at pride celebrations, we have been willing to be part of spectacle and even to be hated—in the hope that our work would mean motion towards liberation. We have witnessed a mainstream LGBT movement that has moved away from these practices, and many of us have spent years in conference centers and hotel rooms all around this country pushing back against a mainstreaming of this movement. It is not enough to disagree with the mainstream agenda. We must be actively creating, resourcing, and organizing new strategies that move a politics of intersectionality into the fields, the small towns, the cities, the bedrooms, the televisions, and the visions of this country and this world. These strategies must work tirelessly to build contagious power with those LGBTQ people who have been left behind by a mainstream gay rights agenda and the unlikely allies who have been passed by. 

In the past two years, SONG has mobilized and transformed thousands of LGBTQ people in the South through two campaigns. In 2011, our campaign against anti-immigrant hate in Georgia unleashed the power of an unprecedented number of LGBTQ people in a fight for liberation that was not slanted “single-issue” toward the traditional definition of gay rights. In 2012, our fight against the antifamily amendment in North Carolina (denying the basic rights of all unmarried couples and our children) was named by the North Carolina News Service as one of the biggest grassroots efforts in the history of North Carolina. Both of these campaigns happened in the South: the part of the country that the media tells us is the most hateful and hostile to marginalized communities. We know without a doubt that all the successes in this work originate from the thousands of LGBTQ southerners and allies who led these efforts. They are voting for a new queer agenda with their sweat, risk taking, and voices. SONG listened to them, created an organizational container, and provided strategic direction. They did the rest. At every turn, when we reframed messages away from a narrow, single-issue, gay rights agenda, our people on the ground responded with vigorous affirmation, agitation, and effort.

All over this country, our people grow tired of a defensive, apologetic LGBT strategy against the right wing. Bullies do not stop when they are appeased. We have nothing to apologize for, and yet we watch as our own people and issues are publicly “de-gayed,” portrayed as middle-class and white—all in the name of eventual equality. In the South, we watch tall grass grow up over the houses where our neighbors used to live and over the businesses that used to populate our small towns. We watch as our family members are detained and deported, our comrades are pushed involuntarily into sex work just to survive, and our children are incarcerated. We turn on the television and hear a conversation about LGBTQ people every day that names us as perverted; sinful; and worthy of pain, isolation, and death. 

Yet our mainstream movement, which claims it speaks for us, tells us to wait for policy wins. We are assured that these wins will trickle down to us as some form of victory on our behalf. As people living in the South, as undocumented immigrants, as people of color, as trans people, as rural people, and as people with disabilities, SONG says this is not good enough. In the absence of stronger national leadership, we call on queer liberationists to build and amplify our power and take our rightful leadership regardless of the scale of our organizations: local, statewide, regional, or national. This article seeks to lay out a little bit more about evolving thoughts on how to do just that, from a Southern perspective on queer liberation. We hope that it inspires other groups (who have not already done so) to seize the moment, stop, listen, and respond to the conditions of today.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Post-Katrina, Funders and Foundations Failed New Orleans

In December of 2006, New Orleans' social justice community came together to draft a letter addressed to foundations and funders, in response to the dismal response to the continuing post-Katrina crisis. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and other disasters still to come, the issues raised then are as relevant as ever. 

The letter is reproduced below, along with many of the original names of those who signed on; a range of signatories that helps show the extent of the anger and frustration felt at that time. 

We also encourage those interested in this issue to see this 2007 letter written by civil rights lawyer Bill Quigley


December 15, 2006

We, the undersigned, represent a wide range of grassroots New Orleans organizers, activists, artists, educators, media makers, health care providers and other community members concerned about the fate of our city.  This letter is directed to all those around the world concerned about the fate of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, but is especially intended for US-based nonprofit organizations, foundations, and other institutions with resources and finances that have been, or could be, directed towards the Gulf Coast.

In the days after the storm, there were promises of support from the federal government and an array of nongovernmental organizations, such as progressive and liberal foundations and nonprofits.  Small and large organizations have done fundraising on our behalf, promising to deliver resources and support to the people of New Orleans.

Many organizations and individuals have supported New Orleans-led efforts with time, resources, and advocacy on our behalf, and for this we are very grateful. These folks followed through on their commitments and offered support in a way that was respectful, responsible, and timely.

However, we are writing this letter to tell you that, aside from these very important exceptions, the support we need has not arrived, or has been seriously limited, or has been based upon conditions that become an enormous burden for us.

We remain in crisis, understaffed, underfunded and in many cases in desperate need of help. From the perspective of the poorest and least powerful, it appears that the work of national allies on their behalf has either not happened or if it has happened it has been a failure.

In the days after August 29, 2005 the world watched as our city was devastated.  This destruction was not caused by Hurricane Katrina, but by failures of local, state and national government, and institutional structures of racism and corruption.  The disaster highlighted already-existing problems such as neglect, privatization and deindustrialization.

As New Orleanians, we have seen tragedy first hand.  We have lost friends and seen our community devastated.  More than 15 months later, we have seen few improvements.  Our education, health care and criminal justice systems remain in crisis, and more than 60 percent of the former population of our city remains displaced. Among those that remain, depression and other mental health issues have skyrocketed.

While many nationwide speak of "Katrina Fatigue," we are still living the disaster.  We remain committed to our homes and communities.  And we still need support.

In 15 months we have hosted visits by countless representatives from an encyclopedic list of prominent organizations and foundations.  We have given hundreds of tours of affected areas, and we have assisted in the writing of scores of reports and assessments.  We have participated in or assisted in organizing panels and workshops and conferences.  We have supplied housing and food and hospitality to hundreds of supporters promising to return with funding and resources, to donate staff and equipment and more.  It seems hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised in our name, often using our words, or our stories.

However, just as the government's promises of assistance, such as the "Road Home" program, remain largely out of reach of most New Orleanians, we have also seen very little money and support from liberal and progressive sources.

Instead of prioritizing efforts led by people who are from the communities most affected, we have seen millions of dollars that was advertised as dedicated towards Gulf Coast residents either remain unspent, or shuttled to well-placed outsiders with at best a cursory knowledge of the realities faced by people here. Instead of reflecting local needs and priorities, many projects funded reflect outside perception of what our priorities should be. We have seen attempts to dictate to us what we should do, instead of a real desire to listen and build together.

We are at an historic moment.  The disaster on the Gulf Coast, and especially in New Orleans, has highlighted issues of national and international relevance.  Questions of race, class, gender, education, health care, food access, policing, housing, privatization, mental health and much more are on vivid display.

The south has been traditionally underfunded and exploited by institutions, including corporations, the labor movement, foundations, and the federal government.  We have faced the legacy of centuries of institutional racism and oppression, with little outside support.  And yet, against massive odds, grassroots movements in the south have organized and won inspiring victories with international relevance.

In New Orleans, despite personal loss and family tragedies, people are fighting for the future of the city they love. Many are working with little to no funding or support.

We are writing this open letter to you to tell you that it's not too late.  The struggle is still ongoing.  Evacuees are organizing in trailer parks, health care providers are opening clinics, former public housing residents are fighting to keep their homes from being demolished, artists and media makers are documenting the struggle, educators and lawyers are joining with high school students to fight for better schools.

We ask you, as concerned friends and allies nationwide, as funders and organizations, to look critically at your practices.  Has your organization raised money on New Orleans' behalf?  Did that money go towards New Orleans-based projects, initiated and directed by those most affected?  Have you listened directly to the needs of those in the Gulf and been responsive to them? Have you adjusted your practices and strategies to the organizing realities on the ground?

We ask you to seize this opportunity, and join and support the grassroots movements.  If the people of New Orleans can succeed against incredible odds to save their city and their community, it is a victory for oppressed people everywhere. If the people of New Orleans lose, it is a loss for movements everywhere.  Struggling together, we can win together.


Cherice Harrison-Nelson, Director and Curator, Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame
Royce Osborn, writer/producer
Greta Gladney, 4th generation Lower 9th Ward resident
Corlita Mahr, Media Justice Advocate
Judy Watts, President/CEO, Agenda for Children
Robert “Kool Black” Horton, Critical Resistance
Jennifer Turner, Community Book Center
Mayaba Liebenthal, INCITE Women of Color Against Violence, Critical Resistance
Norris Henderson, Co-Director Safe Streets/Strong Communities
Ursula Price, Outreach and Investigation Coordinator, Safe Streets/Strong Communities
Evelyn Lynn, Managing Director, Safe Streets/Strong Communities
Shana griffin, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence
Min. J. Kojo Livingston, Founder Liberation Zone/Destiny One Ministries
Shana Sassoon, New Orleans Network Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans
Althea Francois, Safe Streets/Strong Communities
Malcolm Suber, People’s Hurricane Relief Fund
Saket Soni, New Orleans Worker’s Justice Project
Nick Slie, I-10, Witness Project, Co-Artistic Director Mondo Bizarro
Catherine Jones, Organizer and co-founder, Latino Health Outreach Project
Jennifer Whitney, coordinator, Latino Health Outreach Project
S. Mandisa Moore, INCITE! New Orleans
Aesha Rasheed, Project Manager, New Orleans Network
Dix deLaneuville, Educator,
Rebecca Snedeker, Filmmaker
Catherine A. Galpin, RN, FACES and Children's Hospital
Grace Bauer, Families and Friends of Louisiana 's Incarcerated Children
Xochitl Bervera, Families and Friends of Louisiana 's Incarcerated Children
Bess Carrick, Producer/Director
John Clark, Professor of Philosophy, Loyola University
Diana Dunn, The People's Institute, European Dissent
Courtney Egan, Artist
Lou Furman, Turning Point Partners
Ariana Hall, Director, CubaNOLA Collective
Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Historian, writer and lecturer, New Orleans and Mississippi Pine Belt
Susan Hamovitch, Filmmaker/Teacher, NYC/New Orleans
Russell Henderson, Lecturer, Dillard University and Organizer, Rebuilding Louisana Coalition
Ms. Deon Haywood, Events Coordinator, Women With A Vision Inc.
Rachel Herzing, Critical Resistance, Oakland
Rev. Doug Highfield, Universal Life Church, Cherokee, AL
Joyce Marie Jackson, Ph.D., Cultural Researcher, LSU Dept. of Geography & Anthropology, and Co-founder of Cultural Crossroads, Inc., Baton Rouge
Elizabeth K Jeffers, Teacher
Dana Kaplan, Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana
Vi Landry, freelance journalist, New Orleans/New York
Bridget Lehane, European Dissent and The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond
Karen-kaia Livers, Alliance for Community Theaters, Inc.
Rachel E. Luft, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, University of New Orleans
Damekia Morgan, Families and Friends of Louisiana 's Incarcerated Children
Ukali Mwendo, (Hazardous Materials Specialist, NOFD),President, Provisional Government - Republic of New Afrika / New Orleans LA (former resident of the Lafitte Housing Development)
Thea Patterson, Women's Health and Justice Initiative
J. Nash Porter, Documentary Photographer and Co-founder of Cultural Crossroads, Inc., Baton Rouge
Gloria Powers, Arts Project Manager
Bill Quigley, Loyola Professor of Law
Linda Santi, , Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans
Tony Sferlazza, Director of Plenty International NOLA
Heidi Lee Sinclair, MD, MPH, Baton Rouge Children's Health Project
Justin Stein, Neighborhood Relations Coordinator and Community Mediator, Common Ground Health Clinic
Audrey Stewart, Loyola Law Clinic
Tracie L. Washington, Esq., Director, Louisiana Justice Institute
Scott Weinstein, Former co-director of the Common Ground Health Clinic
Melissa Wells, New Orleans,
Jerald L. White, Bottletree Productions
Morgan Williams, Student Hurricane Network, Co-founder
Gina Womack, Families and Friends of Louisiana 's Incarcerated Children

Remember All the Children, Mr. President, By Bill Quigley

Remember the 20 children who died in Newtown, Connecticut.

Remember the 35 children who died in Gaza this month from Israeli bombardments.

Remember the 168 children who have been killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan since 2006.

Remember the 231 children killed in Afghanistan in the first 6 months of this year.

Remember the 400 other children in the US under the age of 15 who die from gunshot wounds each year.

Remember the 921 children killed by US air strikes against insurgents in Iraq.

Remember the 1,770 US children who die each year from child abuse and maltreatment.

Remember the 16,000 children who die each day around the world from hunger.

These tragedies must end.

Bill is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans and Associate Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.  You can reach Bill at  A version of this article with sources is available.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Crime Against Nature Law Back in Court

From our friends at Women With A Vision and Center for Constitutional Rights:
Fill the Court For Oral Arguments In the Case To Overturn Louisiana’s Crime Against Nature Law!

Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, 10:00 a.m
Federal District Court, 500 Poydras Street
Judge Feldman’s Court—Room C551

Many of you supported us during Doe, et al. v. Jindal, et al.-- a federal lawsuit filed against state officials in Louisiana, challenging the fact that a Crime Against Nature by Solicitation (CANS) conviction requires registration as a sex offender on the state sex offender registry.  On March 29, 2012, the Court ruled in Plaintiffs’ favor, agreeing that this registration requirement violates the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. The Court unambiguously ruled that it is unconstitutional to require someone to register as a sex offender solely because of a CANS conviction.

Yet almost 500 people remain on the registry.

So we’ve sued the state again, and we need your support. 

Doe, et al. v. Caldwell, et al. is a federal class action lawsuit seeking to remove from the sex offender registry the hundreds of people who are still forced to register solely as a result of a CANS conviction despite the March 29, 2012 ruling in Doe v. Jindal that deemed that practice unconstitutional.

In Louisiana, people accused of soliciting sex for a fee can be criminally charged in two ways: either under the prostitution statute, or under the solicitation provision of the Crime Against Nature statute.  This archaic statute, adopted in 1805, outlaws “unnatural carnal copulation,” which has been defined by Louisiana courts as oral and anal (but not vaginal) sex.  Police and prosecutors have unfettered discretion in choosing which to charge.  But a Crime Against Nature conviction subjects people to far harsher penalties than a prostitution conviction.  Most significantly, individuals convicted of a Crime Against Nature are forced to register as sex offenders.

The registry law imposes many harsh requirements that impacts every aspect of our clients’ lives.  For example, they must carry a state driver’s license or non-drivers’ identification document which brands them as a sex offender in bright orange capital letters.  They must disclose the fact that they are registered as a sex offender to neighbors, landlords, employers, schools, parks, community centers, and churches.  Their names, address, and photographs appear on the internet. 

Many of our clients have been unable to secure work or housing as a result of their registration as sex offenders.  Several have been barred from homeless shelters.  One has been physically threatened by neighbors.  And another has been refused residential substance abuse treatment because providers will not accept sex offenders at their facilities.

Our clients are not alone in being forced to register as sex offenders solely as a result of a Crime Against Nature by Solicitation conviction.  Indeed, almost 40 percent of registered sex offenders in Orleans Parish are on the registry as a result of such a conviction.  76 percent of these individuals are women, and 80 percent of them are African American.

CCR argues that being forced to register as a sex offender because of a Crime Against Nature conviction serves no legitimate purpose whatsoever.  As such, it is unjustifiable and unconstitutional.  CCR further contends that the only reason our clients are registered sex offenders is that they were convicted under the provisions of a 200-year-old statute that condemns non-procreative sex acts and sex acts traditionally associated with homosexuality, solely on grounds of moral disapproval.

Women With A Vision also spoke at the New Orleans City Council about the recent arson attack they faced. See the clip here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

"I'm The Miracle": The Story of Exoneree Derrick Jamison

From our friends at Resurrection After Exoneration:
“I’m number 119,” proclaims the man sitting beside my desk. His smile is broad and sincere, gold teeth glistening in the artificial light of the office. “Damon Thibodeaux is number 141, you know, the one who got out of Angola a couple weeks ago. Joe Ambrosia is number 140; we was together on death row in Ohio.” He seems so comfortable with these numbers, actually proud of them. Proud to be number 119!

If I were not aware of what he refers to, I might be shocked by his proud announcement, but it isn’t that way for us. Derrick Jamison is here to share his story with me, the story of how he landed on death row for a crime he did not commit, the story of a young man who spent over seventeen years fighting for his life as he awaited execution, and the story of a man who was finally exonerated, the 119th such person in the United States.

Derrick Jamison, from Cincinnati, Ohio, was twenty-four years old when he was convicted of aggravated murder and robbery on October 16, 1985. He was represented by a public defender in a case where the prosecutor and homicide detective withheld thirty-five pieces of evidence. They knew he was not guilty from the start, but getting the conviction was their goal. Apparently, it did not matter who their “victim” was!

Derrick entered death row at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility on October 25, the very day he was sentenced, and was placed into solitary confinement, behind bars, in a 6’x9’ cell, with no physical human contact for seventeen years. At times the prison would be locked down, and he would not be allowed visits or mail from anyone, even from his lawyer, for extended periods of time. For many years of his confinement, Derrick was allowed only two five-minute phone calls per year, one on Christmas Day.

While on death row, Derrick was granted six stays of execution. One was while he was in lockdown, so he did not even receive the notification. Another stay was granted on the actual scheduled date of his execution. He waited until the last minute, with crowds of protesters and supporters gathered outside the prison. When asked what he wanted for his last meal, he replied ,”A cake with a saw in it! I’m not thinking about no food. I’m thinking about dying.” Six times he went through various stages of this harrowing process, and six times it was halted by an official stay by the governor of Ohio.

For the first fourteen years, until 1999, Ohio had the death penalty as part of its system, and there were many inmates on death row awaiting execution, but the state did not use it. Since 1999, they have executed forty-seven inmates and exonerated six. These statistics do not include the even larger number of death row inmates whose sentences were reduced to life imprisonment during the past thirteen years. At one point, the governor, Richard Celeste, upon leaving office, reduced the sentences of all eight women on death row and of several men who were on their final appeals. One of the women whose sentence he reduced had been sentenced to at least eight death penalties for serial murders. Derrick says that he would not have accepted this condition had it been offered. He knew he was innocent and sought exoneration, not a reduced sentence.

At one point, Derrick was offered the opportunity to go free on time served, if he would admit guilt and stop his appeals. He refused. “People thought I lost my mind. I couldn’t admit to something I didn’t do. I’d rather die.”

“Death Row is the same as Schindler’s List,” Derrick continues. “You’re just watching your friends be murdered time and again.” Derrick watched healthy young men come in “like babies – 18 and 19 years old. I watched them grow into men and then they just killed ‘em. It’s like somebody pointing a gun at you and there ain’t nothin’ you can do. They had nobody to fight for them.” Ohio is second in the nation behind Texas in executions.

In 2002, John Byrd was executed. Another man came forward and admitted to the crime for which John had been convicted, but they still killed him. John and Derrick had become close friends on death row. “I curled up on my bunk watching TV, trying not to deal with it, but when they rolled John out on the gurney to his execution….” He paused and cleared his throat, attempting to regain his composure. “It still haunts me. A healthy young man, my buddy, but he was rebellious on the row.” Derrick, on the other hand, never had any write ups on death row. He was not a rebel. “If I had given in to anger and hostility, I would’ve lost my mind. I seen what it did to those other guys. I’m a miracle. All them men, all them babies were in there, some innocent like me, and I walked out. I’m the miracle.”

On May 23, 2002, Federal Judge Arthur Spiegel granted Derrick a new trial. He was moved to general population for three years while the justice system plodded along the path to his ultimate exoneration and release on October 25, 2005, exactly twenty years to the day from the day he first entered death row. His nephew came to pick him up, and the entire family was waiting for him when he got home…everyone except his two closest and most active supporters. “I didn’t die on death row, but my death penalty killed my parents.”

There were events of celebration for a month straight. It was a busy time, and it was good. “If I could bottle up that feeling and sell it, I’d be a millionaire!” He was enjoying life. “When I first came home, I went to the casinos. I won a lot of money; I lost a lot of money. That’s why they call it gambling. I had been a gambler before I went to prison.” There were parties, media events, and Derrick was in demand to speak at area events, “but my biggest supporters weren’t there. My mom was smiling from heaven.”

Asked about his current situation, Derrick reveals that he is on disability due to post traumatic stress disorder. “We ain’t been to jail; we been to hell and back,” he says. The disability compensation permits him to have a part-time job with limited pay, but he remains unemployed.

He spends a significant amount of time speaking to others, sharing his story. He remembers that he went to Catholic schools as a child and says that God gives him the power to go out and share his message with others. “When I speak to a large crowd, something comes over me. That’s God. God has made me into a teacher. I’m a teacher now.”

Derrick tells kids that he thinks that they are all at risk in today’s society. He urges them to remember him and others like him when they experience bad times. “We need to get rid of the death penalty,” he says. “What are we teaching our young people, when our government says it’s alright to kill?” He compares the death penalty to modernized lynchings, remembering what he learned in history class about families coming out with picnic baskets to watch the hangings in the town square. “That might have been a deterrent then, but this, what we have, doesn’t work!”

Our system will always make mistakes. “To err is human, right? We have to stop executing entirely so we won’t be killing innocent people on those mistakes.”

Derrick tells his audiences that he was never involved in drugs in his life, because he was always against them. “I seen what it did to people in my neighborhood.” He assures them that death row is populated by many different types of people. “A lot of guys on death row were pure evil and dangerous, but that doesn’t give somebody the right to kill them. Some were good guys that made mistakes.”

What does his future look like? “I’ll never heal; none of these guys will ever heal. We can’t be compensated for what’s been done to us. My life will get better, but I’ll never get over it. It will always be there…the nightmares. It’s something no human being should have to experience.”

Documentary Planned on United Houma Nation's "Indian Santa," By Adam Crepelle

Reposted from our friends at Bridge The Gulf:
Indian Santa is a short documentary about, as the name suggests, Indian Santa. The tradition was started in 1985 when Hurricane Juan devastated the Houma Indian communities along the Gulf Coast. The Houma families received little help after the storm, and presents were going to be absent from many Houma children's Christmas.

Joe Dardard, a Houma Indian, decided to take action. He teamed up with Toys for Tots and dressed as Santa--with a twist. In addition to the red Santa suit, Joe Dardard donned a traditional tribal headdress. The result, children in the Houma community received at least a moment of joy during the holiday. Over 20 years later, Indian Santa continues to spread Christmas cheer throughout the Houma Indian community. Thomas Dardar, Joe's nephew and Principal Chief of the United Houma Nation, has been serving as Indian Santa for the past seven years.

I produced the film because, although several chapters in books and a few films have mentioned the Houma, all of those pieces focus on the adversity the tribe faces. I wanted to show something genial happening within the tribe.

Indian Santa was scheduled to be shown December 6th and 8th at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian's "At the Movies" Screening Series with My Louisiana Love but due to Hurricane Sandy, the screening has been moved to the spring of 2013. Indian Santa is an official selection of the New Orleans Film Festival, the South Alabama Film Festival, the Life Film Festival (Winner Best Documentary), and the American Indian Film Festival.

Just as Indian Santa is a tradition among the Houma, dealing with disaster has become part of the Houma culture as well.

Hurricanes and the BP spill have absolutely crippled many citizens of the United Houma Nation, who primarily work in the seafood and oil industries. This year, Hurricane Isaac wreaked havoc in Braithwaite, Louisiana, a Houma Indian community.

Aside from disaster, another constant is the federal government's persistent refusal to acknowledge the United Houma Nation as an Indian tribe. Houma Indian children were forced to attend a segregated Indian school until 1969; that is, five years after the passage of the Civil Rights of 1964 officially desegregated society. Nevertheless, the federal government insists the Houma are not an Indian tribe.

Federal recognition would be immensely beneficial to the Houma because it would make the tribe eligible for disaster relief programs and funds to help combat coastal erosion. Coastal erosion is major reason recent hurricanes have been unusually impactful. The barrier islands, now vanished, served as a buffer weakening hurricanes before they hit coastal populations – the Houma. Thanks to the vanished islands and shrinking coastline, Houma Indian communities such as Isle de Jean Charles and Point-Aux-Chenes are now the storm buffer.

The BP disaster serves the most obvious example of how lack of federal recognition harms the Houma. In response the United Houma Nation's damages claim, BP replied:

"While BP indeed processes claims from federally recognized Indian Tribes through this process, our review of your claim submission indicates that the United Houma Nation is not a federally recognized Indian Tribe entitled to assert claims pursuant to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 ('OPA'). Therefore, we are closing your claim file with regard to this matter."

Indian Santa is lighthearted movie. It spotlights something positive happening in a community wrought with hardship. My hope is the film's success will bring interest to the tribe, its ongoing struggles, and support from allies. The more national recognition the UHN receives, the closer the UHN will be to federal recognition.

Photo: Principal Chief Thomas Dardar as Indian Santa in 2011, courtesy of 'Indian Santa'. Learn more about Indian Santa at the film's website or Facebook page.

Adam Crepelle is a citizen of the United Houma Nation. He serves on the tribe’s Tribal Security and Community Services Committee and the tribe’s Diabetes’s Coalition. Adam received his degree in exercise science from the University of Louisiana Lafayette in 2009. He is currently in his third year at Southern University Law Center.