March 14, 2013

THIBODAUX, La. – Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, oral historians, photographer, painter, and members  of the public joined together at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in Thibodaux, LA last night to celebrate wetlands and lives unique to Louisiana. Opening the event and art show titled “I Remember…” was Parish President Charlotte Randolph.

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With nearly 700 years of experience between the oral historians alone the tales, photos, and paintings communicated the story of living along a Louisiana’s fragile coastline. Oral historians recognized at the exhibit were:

  • Davie Breaux, operations manager at Port Fourchon, who explained the need for coastal restoration and how a lifetime of wetland use goes far beyond a job.
  • Cindy Cutrera who discussed how she and her family use the wetlands of Lake End Park near Morgan City for recreational purposes
  • Buddy Daisy and Earl Melancon who teamed up to weave the tale of being an oysterman in Louisiana. This matchless interview provided an exclusive view of the oyster business.
  • Brenda Dardar Robichaux, former Principal Chief of the United Houma Nations, gave a first-hand view of how the Native Americans of Louisiana are coping with the ever changing landscapes and the dire need for restoration.
  • Marietta Smith-Greene, landowner, described how family and legislative acts such as the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) are making a difference in coastal restoration.
  • Sue Laudeman, recently retired education curator of the Historic New Orleans Collection, recalled life as a girl in New Orleans and her relationship with the wetlands that surround the urban area.
  • Kerry St. Pé, executive director of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, examined the ongoing connection between man and nature and the delicate balances of conservationism.
  • Sherrill Sagrera, farmer, landowner, and CWPPRA activist, illustrated his ongoing crusade to educate people about the dangers of letting Louisiana’s vanishing wetlands slip away.
  • Eddie Sapia, a retired shrimper from Lafitte, delivered a first-hand account of wetland changes over his life.
  • Yancey Welch, crabber, alligator hunter, and family man of southwest Louisiana, articulated his conflicts with gators and hurricanes while showing great respect for distinctive ecosystem that surrounds him.

The entire oral histories can be accessed online at the LaCoast.gov website link http://lacoast.gov/new/GetInvolved/OralHistory.aspx

According to Lt. Gov. Dardenne the exhibit is important because “I don’t think there’s any greater challenge we face as a state than to make sure that the culture and the communities on this coast have a future.” 

Photographer Lane Lefort expressed that he has long wanted to tell the tale of the ordinary men and women who call Louisiana home. Spending years as a nature photographer, Lefort has met a host of local people who helped him find beautiful plants, animals, and habitats. In capturing wildlife, Lefort became acutely aware that humans’ interaction with nature should also be captured in photos. He noted that this art show reveals the story of the people of his home. 

Artist Marian Brister Martinez noted that, “Change is inevitable but memories are a part of what shapes us. We all have them. It’s important to pass these memories along to our children and grandchildren so they can have a sense of place and belonging in our families.” The art show is an extraordinary way to capture this unique culture and time in Louisiana history. 

The exhibit was created by the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act Task Force and Public Outreach Committee in an effort to develop beautiful still, digital, photograph portraits and in depth wetland related oral histories that record the unique culture and diversity of the peoples that live, work, and protect Louisiana. These portraits, photos, paintings, and oral histories are designed to engage the public in the value of defending and restoring delicate coastal habitats. The exhibit will remain open at 314 St. Mary Street, Thibodaux, LA through May 8, 2013. The public is invited to visit this free showing. 

For more information contact Cole Ruckstuhl, CWPPRA Public Outreach Media Specialist, at (337) 266-8542 or ruckstuhlc@usgs.gov.

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