After two and a half days and 1500 miles I made it to New Orleans. I spent Thursday night with family in Shawnee, Ok, and then last night in Lafayette, LA--ironically in a part of town known as "Oil Center." I'm preparing to teach a class at the University of Minnesota that's on the oil spill--but I want it to be about a lot more than just that. The course is titled "Oil and Water: The Gulf Oil Spill of 2010," and what I want to do is explore how these two resources are intimately connected in the past and present of the Gulf coast. Throughout the next 10 days I'm going to be meeting with people who are either involved in the recovery, affected by the spill, or who have worked in areas like coastal restoration, as well as trying to see as many of the affected areas as I can in order to be able to bring some of that first-hand experience back with me to the classroom.
This morning I drove from Lafayette to visit a couple of towns south of Houma, LA, that are at the very fringes of the state, Montegut and the Pointe-Au-Chien Indian community. I plan on meeting with tribal representatives later in the week, but for today I just wanted to get my bearings and take a few pictures (I was using an actual film camera today, but will get some pictures up soon). In both places I followed the roads as far as they would go, both essentially deadending into the Gulf of Mexico. I drove down to Montegut first, and noticed that things seemed much quieter than they should. It was the middle of the day on Saturday, during the summer, but hardly anyone was around. I passed a marina on my way through Montegut and noticed it has a large "closed" sign out front. I drove down to Pointe-Au-Chien after that. On the way into town there's a sign up that says "Bienvenue, Pointe Au Chien Tribal Community."
The name of the town comes from the many Oak trees that grow in the area. While some still remain along the road, the water surrounding the town is littered with the ghostly remains of dead oak trees, killed off by the intrusion of salt water into the wetlands--water that was brought there by the dredging of canals for oil pipelines. I followed the highway until it ended at a marina, but once again this one had a "closed" sign prominently placed at the entrance. I stopped and took a few pictures, and could see people with hard hats walking around inside. On my way back out of town I stopped at a small grocery store to get a drink and pick up some other supplies. It seemed like the clerk kind of eyed me wearily when I walked in, but after saying hello and chatting with her a bit she seemed to warm up quickly. As I was checking out I asked if she knew why the marina was closed--she sighed and said "yes I do--BP's got it."