Deep in the bayous of Louisiana, about 80 miles southwest of New Orleans, lies the Isle de Jean Charles, a tiny swath of land that’s all but vanished into the Gulf of Mexico. Over the last half-century or so, the island has fallen victim to irresponsible oil and gas extraction practices and the effects of climate change. Many of its residents — members of the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Native Americans — have been forced to flee.
“What you see of the island now is just a skeleton of what it used to be,” Chris Brunet, a tribal council member and lifelong island resident, told The New York Times in a mini-documentary called Vanishing Island in 2014. A recent federal grant, however, will allow the state-recognized tribe to resettle on higher ground, making it the first community of official climate refugees in the United States, according to Indian Country Today.