Since 2004, The Williams-Mystic Coastal and Ocean Studies Program has collaborated with Grand Isle, Louisiana and the Grand Calliou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw during its southern Louisiana field seminar. Below you will find more information about each of these communities.
Williams-Mystic students, faculty, and staff in front of the Hernandez Family home in Grand Isle, LA.
Grand Isle, LA
Chris Hernandez, Grand Isle’s Town Supervisor of Highways, has raised his family on Grand Isle, an island he loves. Chris has served as an essential centerpiece for the Williams-Mystic Louisiana field seminar for decades, introducing hundreds of Williams-Mystic students to the beauty of Grand Isle, the town’s work to improve resiliency in the face of climate change, and the strength of a community that will never stop fighting for their home.
Grand/Caillou Dulac Band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw
Dulac is home to many members of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe, a strong, vibrant tribal community living along Bayou Grand Caillou. Chief Shirell Parfait-Dardar is a fierce advocate for her tribe and her community, working tirelessly to protect her ancestral home and vital heritage from the increasing impacts of climate change. Recently featured in the National Geographic Presents: IMPACT with Gal Gadot, Chief Shirell is also a critical partner for the Williams-Mystic Louisiana Field Seminar teaching students about the environmental justice issues faced by coastal indigenous tribes, the depth of tradition and care contained within her tribal community and the other indigenous communities of Southeastern Louisiana, and the power of hope and hard work in the face of challenge.
Chief Shirell talking with Williams-Mystic students about the significance of Prevost Cemetery through the community's history.
Williams-Mystic students gift Chief Shirell a certificate of appreciation for sharing her wisdom, insight, and expertise with their class.
IMPACT With Gal Gadot
Chief Shirell was recently featured in National Geographic Presents: IMPACT with Gal Gadot, a documentary series following the work of six women doing impactful work in their communities. From National Geographic: “Meet Chief Shirell, the first female chief of her southern Louisiana tribe. Her ancestors have lived on the land for hundreds of years, and they are now expected to be among the United States’ first climate refugees. Chief Shirell can’t stop the storms, but she is impacting the legacy of her ancestors, the lives of her community today and the future of her people.”
This live oak has served as a gathering place for generations of the Hernandez family. After Hurricane Katrina, almost all of Hernandez's neighborhood suffered intense damage, and many homes, including the home of his father-in-law, were entirely destroyed. However, this live oak stood strong, and acted as a place of refuge for the community as they rebuilt. In the wake of Ida's devastation, miraculously, the tree remains as a symbol of hope, family, and resiliency in a community that remains strong.
Chris talks to Williams-Mystic faculty and students about the symbolism of this important family tree that survived Hurricane Katrina.
The tree is still standing post-Hurricane Ida.