Gulf of Mexico oil spill reinforces the industry’s bad will for American Indians

Gulf of Mexico oil spill reinforces the industry’s bad will for American Indians
By The Associated Press
May 18, 2010, 6:55AM

Like many American Indians on the bayou, Emary Billiot blames oil companies for ruining his ancestral marsh over the decades. Still, he’s always been able to fish — but now, with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, even that is not a certainty.

An oil spill — 5 million gallons and counting — spreading across the Gulf of Mexico has closed bays and lakes in Louisiana’s bountiful delta, including fishing grounds that feed the last American-Indian villages in three parishes. It is a bitter blow for the tribes of south Louisiana who charge that drilling has already destroyed their swamps and that oil and land companies illegally grabbed vast areas.

Only 26 families remain on the island today.

“Once the oil gets in the marshes, it’s all over, that’s where your shrimp spawn,” said Billiot, a wiry fisherman with tough hands, his fingernails caked with bayou dirt. “Then we’re in trouble,” he said in a heavy French-Indian accent.

In the month since an offshore drilling platform exploded, killing 11 workers, BP PLC has struggled to stop the leak from a blown-out underwater well. Over the weekend, engineers finally succeeded in using a stopper-and-tube combination to siphon some of the gushing oil into a tanker.

In Pointe-Au-Chien, 60-year-old Sydney Verdin felt a tingle of vengeful satisfaction at BP PLC’s misfortune over the oil spill.
“I’m happy for the oil spill. Now the oil companies are paying for it the same way we’ve had to pay for it,” said Verdin, disabled by a stroke, as he sat in his living room and watched his grandchildren play.

Even before the leak, oil’s influence on the south Louisiana landscape was unmistakable. Signs warning about underground pipelines are everywhere. So are plastic poles in canals to show the pipelines’ location. Out in the marsh, oil and gas facilities are often the only lights visible at night.

Since the 1930s, oil and natural gas companies dug about 10,000 miles of canals, straight as Arizona highways, through the oak and cypress forests, black mangroves, bird rushes and golden marshes. If lined up in a row, the canals would stretch nearly halfway around the world.

They funneled salt water into the marshes, killing trees and grass and hastening erosion. Some scientists say drilling caused half of Louisiana’s land loss, or about 1,000 square miles.
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KIDS TO THE COUNTRY Celebrates Earthday

Kids To The Country launched its 24th year in Tennessee on Earthday Saturday, April 17, 2010, at the Carver Food Park, Garden and Compost Site, in the Greenway along I440 at 10th Avenue and Gale Lane in Nashville. About a hundred folks attended and enjoyed a beautiful day in the park.

94-year-old Mr. Ellis leads a circle Earthday blessing.
Three girls.
Watering a bed.
Earthday folks chat.
L. to R. Joe Harris, Crystal Miller, Ginger and Luke Sands
Peter Kindfield builds a fire for the vegie burgers.
Kids on stage.
Watching the action with Umsullamah.
Sizwe Herring and Mary Ellen Bowen.

Elaine Langley, RN, back from Haiti

Plenty medical volunteer, Elaine Langely, went to Haiti with a team from the Louisiana/Haiti Sustainable Village project and worked with a Haitian EMT, two other volunteer nurses and an American doctor in a makeshift clinic in the southern coastal town of Cayes Jacmel. These are some of the photos she and a Haitian friend shot during her stay.

Elaine poses with kids outside clinic.
Elaine gives medicine to a little girl.
clinic waiting room
Elaine and friends

Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee Chief and First Woman to Lead Major Tribe, Is Dead at 64

Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee Chief and First Woman to Lead Major Tribe, Is Dead at 64
April 6, 2010
By SAM HOWE VERHOVEK
Wilma Mankiller, who as the first woman to be elected chief of a major American Indian tribe revitalized the Cherokee Nation’s tribal government and improved its education, health and housing, died Tuesday at her home near Tahlequah, Okla. She was 64. The cause was pancreatic cancer, said Mike Miller, a tribal spokesman. Ms. Mankiller was the Cherokee chief from 1985 to 1995, and during her tenure the nation’s membership more than doubled, to 170,000 from about 68,000.
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Plenty volunteer Elaine Langley, RN is in Haiti

Elaine Langely, RN is in Haiti working at a clinic in Cayes Jacmel, a town of 30,000 on Haiti’s south coast. She and another nurse from New Orleans and a Haitian EMT are seeing 80 patients a day. There’s a serious shortage of medicines and medical supplies in the area. They’re seeing a lot of malnutrition, and high blood pressure and kids with stomach ailments. There’s no doctor so they’ve been consulting with Plenty Board Member, William Meeker, MD who works at a hospital in Nashville.

Kate Priest, RN, writes from Haiti

Last Saturday, Feb. 27) Kate and Carolyn flew to Haiti with Daniel Sussot of Airline Ambassadors. Carolyn Bell is representing Plenty.

Kate writes: “Friday we will take a convoy of trucks with food water and medical supplies to villages around Jacmel and a clinic at Caye Jacmel, very intense but all coming together with brilliant teamwork sprinkled with synchronicity. Not lots of time to write but this trip has been life changing, inspiring and very challenging!! I am loving the Airline Ambassadors team I’m with and esp. my Carolyn Bell, CNM who went off in scrubs to volunteer in a PAP (Port-au-Prince) hospital here. It rained all night and I kept waking up thinking about the all the people who were out in that with NOTHING, no water food shelter. The need here is still so great.

A couple photos attached of some of the AAI team, a tent city ( these are everywhere…) and a destroyed house. Up the hill from us was a 7 story hotel that collapsed completely killing hundreds.

In the group photo: left to right Kate, RN and Carolyn Bell, CNM and local housekeeper Lasa, Helen Samuels of greendomeprojects.org, CNM and Daniel Sussot, MD.

Collapsed house.
Tent city.

My best wishes to you all,

Kate

PS: I am fine and safe and doing very well here…”

Haiti Numbers

NUMBERS AT A GLANCE
Estimated Deaths 230,0001
People Displaced in Port-au-Prince Metropolitan Area 700,000
Estimated People Departing Port-au-Prince 597,801
Estimated Affected Population 3 million
NGOs in Haiti before earthquake 4,000
NGOs in Haiti now 10,000

Barge loaded and headed for Haiti

Over the weekend of 19 to 22 a giant barge docked on the southwest coast of Louisiana was loaded with relief supplies and equipment by a coalition of Haiti earthquake relief organizations that included Plenty International. A total of 75,000 tons making up 150,000 cubic feet of food, medical equipment, medicines, shelters and other essential items is now on its way to the Haitian town of Jacmel where it will be received by more than 20 relief organizations for distribution. A second barge is already in the planning stages.

Plenty volunteer, Elaine Langley at the warehouse where supplies were collected.
Boxes on pallets had to be shrink-wrapped before being loaded.
Some of the volunteers who helped with the packing.
Some of the barge loading crew.

HAITI AND HEALTH CARE

Poverty, Profit and Disease
Haiti and Health Care

By HELEN REDMOND

Genyen tout yon sosyete ki pou change.
(There is a whole society to be changed.)

— Haitian Proverb

It is no exaggeration to say the forty-five second, 7.0 earthquake
that rocked the capital of Haiti on January 12th and reduced hospitals
and clinics to rubble set the country on a trajectory back to a
medical stone age. Forty-five seconds.

The earthquake destroyed the health care infrastructure in Port-au-
Prince and shut down basic services critical for the delivery of
health care: the electrical grid, transport, water and sanitation
systems. The country didn’t have much of a health care system to
topple. Haiti lacks modern medical resources: state-of-the-art
hospitals and clinics; sufficient numbers of trained nurses, doctors
and other medical staff; medical devices, diagnostic technology and
medicines.

Haiti is a medical backwater, an island trapped in a time capsule
where disease, disability and death stalk impoverished Haitians year
after year. About 80 percent of Haitians live in poverty (on less than
a $1 day) and 54 percent live in “abject poverty.” No one should die
of tuberculosis: medicines to cure the disease have existed for half a
century. Yet in Haiti, over 5000 a year die and rates of TB infection
are increasing. HIV/AIDS is considered a chronic disease treated by a
cocktail of anti-retroviral drugs. But not in Haiti – over 7000 die
every year. AIDS is the leading of cause of death for those between
the ages of 15 to 49. TB and AIDS are the infections of inequality and
unremitting poverty.

Dozens of foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have provided
medical care to Haitians for decades. Haiti has become a “medical
missionary’s mission.” Thousands of committed and compassionate nurses
and doctors travel to the island to offer medical services and then
fly back to the developed world. Paul Farmer, a physician and
anthropologist at Harvard University, has brought attention to poor
Haitians dying from curable diseases. The organization he founded,
Partners in Health, has offered basic medical services to Haitians for
20 years. In his groundbreaking book, Infections and Inequalities, The
Modern Plagues, Farmer explains how the social determinants of health
collude at every turn to debilitate and kill.
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