America ReFramed

S1 E8 | FULL EPISODE

My Louisiana Love

Tracing Monique Verdin’s quest to find a place in her Native American community as it suffers from decades of environmental degradation. When she returns to Louisiana to reunite with family, she sees that the traditional way of life is threatened by a cycle of man-made environmental crises. Monique must overcome the loss of her house, her father and her partner, and redefine the meaning of home.

AIRED: March 24, 2020 | 1:04:56
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

(gentle music)

- [Monique] I wanna keep living on our land,

but I'm inheriting a dying delta.

- [Narrator] In the bayous and swamps

of southeast Louisiana,

filmmaker Monique Verdin explores her native Houma roots.

- [Monique] Our people have survived

the natural cycle of floods and storms for centuries.

- We've been treated bad throughout the years,

but this could destroy our tribe as a whole.

- [Narrator] "My Louisiana Love," next on "America ReFramed."

VERDIN: MY FAMILY ROOTS RUN DEEP IN THE WETLANDS

OF SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA.

OUR HOUMA PEOPLE HAVE BEEN LIVING OFF THESE LANDS

AND WATERS FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS.

OH, LISTEN TO IT.

THEY'RE TALKING.

THAT'S THE FISH THAT'S TALKING.

SO, IMAGINE WHAT IT WAS LIKE A HUNDRED YEARS AGO.

WOMAN: ALL OF THIS USED TO BE TREES?

THIS WAS ALL CYPRESS SWAMPS.

YOU SEE ALL OF THESE DEAD SKELETONS.

I JUST THOUGHT THIS IS A BEAUTIFUL,

KIND OF TRAGIC VANTAGE POINT,

BUT SPEAKS VOLUMES FOR WHAT'S REALLY GOING ON IN THIS PLACE.

VERDIN: I WANT TO KEEP LIVING ON OUR LAND

BUT I'M INHERITING A DYING DELTA.

MY NAME IS MONIQUE VERDIN.

I WAS BORN DURING A SPRINGTIME LOUISIANA FLOOD.

I SPENT MY FIRST YEARS LIVING IN A SINGLE WIDE TRAILER

ON MY FAMILY'S LAND.

I LOVED RUNNING BAREFOOT ON THE BAYOU SIDE.

WHEN IT FLOODS, DOES IT TAKE THE FISH?

AFTER MY PARENTS DIVORCED,

MY MOTHER MOVED US THREE AND A HALF HOURS AWAY

TO PENSACOLA BEACH, FLORIDA.

I SPENT MY CHILDHOOD DREAMING OF RETURNING TO LOUISIANA.

THIRTEEN YEARS AGO, AFTER GRADUATING HIGH SCHOOL,

I FOUND MY WAY BACK HOME.

I MOVED IN WITH MY GRANDMOTHER,

WHO CARES FOR MY MENTALLY DISABLED UNCLE NEG.

I'VE ALWAYS LOVED BEING WITH MY GRANDMOTHER, MATINE.

I'M DRAWN TO HER WAYS, THE OLD WAYS OF THE HOUMA INDIANS.

I HAD A FEELING THESE WAYS MIGHT SOMEDAY DISAPPEAR,

SO I STARTED DOCUMENTING THEM.

WHERE TO NEXT?

SO YOU PUT THE GOOD FEATHERS IN THAT BAG...

MATINE: OKAY, THAT'S DINNER FOR TOMORROW.

THAT'S FIVE DUCKS.

HENRY, JOE, JACK, JIM AND BOB.

GREAT

VERDIN: MY GRANDMOTHER LIVES BY THE CYCLE OF THE MOON,

PLANTING HER GARDEN WHEN IT'S FULL

AND CUTTING HER HAIR WHEN IT'S NEW.

SHE COLLECTS RAINWATER FOR DRINKING AND BATHING.

SHE BELIEVES PRAYER HAS THE POWER TO HEAL.

MY GRANDMOTHER TOLD ME STORIES OF HER CHILDHOOD DAYS

LIVING WITH HER CLAN IN THATCHED PALMETTO CAMPS.

THEY WERE THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF THE DELTA,

WHOSE BLOODLINES WERE MIXED WITH FRENCH SETTLERS'.

THEY FISHED THE WATERS AND HUNTED AND FARMED ON THE LAND.

THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE HAD FORCED MY ANCESTORS

INTO THE LEAST DESIRABLE SWAMPLANDS

BETWEEN THE ATCHAFALAYA AND MISSISSIPPI RIVERS.

THE HOUMA NATION HAS NEVER BEEN FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED.

MY GRANDMOTHER JUST CALLS HERSELF FRENCH INDIAN.

AS MY GRANDMOTHER WAS GROWING UP IN THE 1920S,

THE OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY WAS GROWING, TOO.

AND OIL RIGS WERE SPREADING ALL AROUND HER.

ON MY GRANDMOTHER'S 90TH BIRTHDAY,

WE TOOK A TRIP DOWN BAYOU POINTE-AUX-CHENES

TO WHERE SHE GREW UP.

VERDIN: WE WERE SURPRISED HOW WIDE OPEN THESE BAYOUS ARE.

ONCE THEY WERE ONLY WIDE ENOUGH FOR A PIROGUE BOAT TO PASS.

VERDIN: WHEN MY GREAT-GRANDPARENTS

MARKED THEIR "X" ONTO THOSE PAPERS,

THEY DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO READ OR WRITE.

THEY BARELY KNEW HOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH.

BUT THAT "X" TOOK AWAY THEIR LAND AND SO MUCH MORE.

ARE WE HEADING SOUTH RIGHT NOW?

VERDIN: FROM THE TIME MY GRANDMOTHER WAS BORN IN 1915

TO THE TIME I WAS BORN IN 1980,

THE OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY LAID TENS OF THOUSANDS OF MILES

OF PIPELINES AND DUG OVER 9,000 MILES OF CANALS.

THIS WEB OF PIPELINES AND CANALS

HELPS LOUISIANA PRODUCE OR TRANSPORT

NEARLY ONE-THIRD OF THE NATION'S OIL AND GAS SUPPLY.

UNABLE TO TRAP THEIR NATIVE LANDS,

MY GRANDMOTHER AND HER FAMILY LEFT POINTE-AUX-CHENES IN 1943.

THEY FILLED THEIR TANK WITH GAS

AND MOVED TO ST. BERNARD PARISH,

20 MILES FROM NEW ORLEANS.

MY FATHER WAS RAISED IN SAINT BERNARD PARISH.

HE GREW UP LIVING THE TRADITIONAL WAYS

AND WAS PROUD OF HIS NATIVE HERITAGE.

BUT WHEN HE STARTED SCHOOL IN THE THICK OF DESEGREGATION,

HE WAS BEATEN FOR HIS LONG HAIR AND DARK SKIN.

HERBERT VERDIN: IT'S GOING TO BE FUN.

BUT, I MEAN, IF WE CAN'T GO...

(LAUGHTER)

THOSE ARE CLEAN.

VERDIN: I WANTED TO BE A DADDY'S GIRL,

BUT MY FATHER WASN'T ALWAYS AROUND.

WE GOT CLOSER AS I GOT OLDER.

PACK OF DOGS.

(LAUGHTER)

NO MICHELANGELO.

ANYBODY ELSE WANT TO TRY?

VERDIN: I'LL PAINT.

WHAT IS IT?

HERBERT: A GRAY HERON.

THEY GOT BLUE, GRAY, AND THE WHITE.

VERDIN: MY FATHER WAS ALWAYS A MAGIC MAN TO ME.

HE COULD MAKE A CAR RUN WITHOUT ANY GAS

AND HE COULD MAKE A DYING MAN LAUGH.

BUT HE STRUGGLED WITH A DRUG AND ALCOHOL ADDICTION.

MY FATHER SHOWED ME THE SHORTCUT TO NEW ORLEANS

THROUGH THE BACKATOWN OF THE LOWER 9TH WARD.

THERE HE WAS KNOWN AS JULIO.

HE KNEW HOW TO LIVE ON THE EDGE,

DAY TO DAY, HAND TO MOUTH, BEER TO BEER.

ONE NIGHT ON A NEW ORLEANS DANCE FLOOR,

I MET A MAN NAMED MARK KRASNOFF.

KRASNOFF: HOW'S THE LIGHT?

VERDIN: I HAVE NIGHT VISION.

UP CLOSE IT KIND OF BLURS YOU OUT.

IS IT AUTOMATIC FOCUS?

VERDIN: HE INTRODUCED HIMSELF AS A CAJUN-CHOCTAW-JEW.

IT WAS LIKE BUMPING INTO AN OLD FRIEND I HAD NEVER MET BEFORE.

WE WALKED THE STREETS TILL SUNRISE TALKING ABOUT

OUR LOVE FOR LOUISIANA.

HAPPY MARDI GRAS!

VERDIN: I INVITED KRAZ TO COME DOWN THE BAYOU

TO MEET MY FAMILY.

HEY!

MAN: HOW YOU ALL DOING, HUH? (CHUCKLES)

THIS IS MARK.

MARK, BERNICE AND THE REST.

KRASNOFF: HELLO. (SPEAKS CREOLE)

HE'S A CAJUN...

VERDIN: MY FAMILY FELT COMFORTABLE WITH KRAZ AROUND.

HIS CURIOSITY WAS CHARMING.

KRAZ STARTED ASKING A LOT OF QUESTIONS

ABOUT MY FAMILY'S LAND.

KRASNOFF: HOW HIGH DOES THE WATER GET WHEN IT COMES HERE?

YOU HAVE TO USE A PIROGUE BOAT TO GET TO THE ROAD?

FROM YOUR HOUSE?

HAS IT BEEN GETTING WORSE, OR HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN LIKE THAT?

VERDIN: SOUTH LOUISIANA IS LOSING

ALMOST AN ACRE OF LAND EVERY HOUR.

I STARTED TO SEE A BIGGER STORY IN THE PHOTOS

I WAS TAKING OF MY FAMILY.

AS KRAZ AND I WENT DEEPER INTO EXPLORING OUR LOUISIANA,

WE WERE ALSO FALLING IN LOVE WITH EACH OTHER.

HE TAUGHT ME HOW TO TWO-STEP IN ZYDECO DANCE HALLS,

AND WE SPENT OUR SUNDAYS PARADING IN SECOND LINES.

WITHIN A FEW MONTHS, I WAS LIVING WITH HIM AT HIS HOME

IN UPTOWN NEW ORLEANS.

I WAS WORKING AT A COFFEE SHOP

AND KRAZ WAS WORKING AS AN ACTOR.

HE ACTED IN A TV DOCUDRAMA THAT SHOWED AN ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS

WAITING TO HAPPEN IN LOUISIANA.

TV NARRATOR: THE PORT'S DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, JOHN HAMMILL,

KNEW HE HAD LITTLE MARGIN FOR ERROR.

A HURRICANE BLEW INTO THE GULF OF MEXICO

THAT SEVERED THE SUPPLY OF OIL TO THE NATION.

THE LOOP PIPELINE THAT CARRIES A MILLION BARRELS OF OIL

INTO AMERICA A DAY HAD BEEN SEVERED.

VERDIN: THE SHOW AIRED THREE MONTHS BEFORE HURRICANE KATRINA.

WE'RE GOING TO GET MATINE IN HOUSTON.

WE FOUND HER ON THE RED CROSS WEBSITE TODAY.

WE'RE IN BETTER SPIRITS NOW THAT WE KNOW THAT HER AND NEG

ARE ALIVE AND OKAY.

KRASNOFF'S OIL STORM IS HAPPENING.

IT'S 2005, SEPTEMBER 3.

IT'S MY FATHER'S BIRTHDAY.

HE'S STILL MISSING.

WE EVACUATED NEW ORLEANS ON SATURDAY

AND RAN TO BATON ROUGE.

BATON ROUGE WAS PRETTY BAD.

AND, AS OBVIOUSLY WE'VE COME TO BE AWARE OF,

NEW ORLEANS IS... IS GONE, ACTUALLY.

HOW MANY DAYS HAVE THEY BEEN MISSING?

IS TODAY SATURDAY? SIX DAYS.

SECTION C-- YOU SEE IT?

SECTION C.

LET ME ORIENT MYSELF.

THIS IS C, RIGHT?

I THOUGHT THAT YOU TALKED TO HER

AND SHE SAID, "WE WERE SUCH-AND-SUCH PLACE."

YEAH, SHE SAID EXHIBIT HALL C, WHAT I'M WALKING INTO.

YEAH, BUT WE CAN'T EVEN WALK AROUND.

WE'RE JUST...

THEY'RE BY THE MEN'S RESTROOM.

HEY, HEY, HEY, YEAH, YEAH, YEAH.

YOU SHOULD START YOUR OWN EXERCISE SHOW, MATINE.

THE EVACUEE/REFUGEE EXERCISE PROGRAM.

VERDIN: ARE YOU PUTTING YOUR HAIR IN A BUN

OR DO YOU WANT TO BRAID IT?

HOW ARE YOU FEELING?

BETTER.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

VERDIN: MY FATHER SURVIVED THE STORM BY CAMPING OUT ON OUR ROOF

FOR NINE DAYS WITH A FLOCK OF GEESE, A PIG, A PACK OF DOGS,

AND A BOTTLE OF TEQUILA.

AND JULIO WAS ON THE PORCH,

THE LITTLE CHIHUAHUA TALKING ABOUT...

(IMITATES CHIHUAHUA YAPPING)

I SAID, "STOP IT. SHUT UP."

THE GEESE RAN ALL TO THE PORCH.

EVERYBODY WAS ON THE PORCH-- THE LITTLE PIGS GOING,

"OINK, OINK, OINK."

I SAID, "SHUT UP!"

VERDIN: MY GRANDMOTHER AND UNCLE WERE PULLED ON A PIROGUE,

SLEPT ON A SHRIMP BOAT FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS,

THEN WALKED THE LEVEE TO SAFETY.

THAT PIROGUE HELPED SAVE MY GRANDMOTHER WHEN SHE WAS 90,

JUST AS A PIROGUE DID WHEN SHE WAS 11 IN THE HURRICANE OF 1926.

OUR PEOPLE HAVE SURVIVED THE NATURAL CYCLE OF FLOODS

AND STORMS FOR CENTURIES.

BUT NOW WE FACE NATURAL DISASTERS

IN A WORLD MANIPULATED BY MAN.

THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER GULF OUTLET, MR. GO,

WAS DREDGED IN THE 1960S AS A SHORTCUT

FROM THE PORT OF NEW ORLEANS TO THE GULF OF MEXICO.

DURING KATRINA, THE MR. GO ACTED LIKE A FUNNEL

FOR THE STORM SURGE,

CONTRIBUTING TO THE FAILURE OF LEVEES

AND ALLOWING THE SURGE TO SLAM ONTO OUR LAND.

SOME OF MY RELATIVES DIDN'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT

THE UNCERTAINTY OF OUR FUTURE.

I AGREE WITH YOU, RUTH, BUT THE THING IS

IS THAT IT... WE KNOW THAT IT'S MOTHER NATURE

AND WE KNOW THAT ALSO IT'S A MANMADE DISASTER AS WELL

BECAUSE THEY WENT IN, THEY CUT THE CANAL.

YOU DON'T BELIEVE THAT THE CANALS HAVE CAUSED EROSION?

(VOICE BREAKING) I SEE IT HAPPENING,

AND IT'S HAPPENED IN A SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME.

AND I LOVE LOUISIANA AND I WANT TO LIVE IN LOUISIANA.

MY DAD AND MY UNCLE AND MY GRANDMA AND MY COUSIN

WOULD HAVE ALL BEEN FINE IF THAT LEVEE WOULDN'T HAVE BROKE.

THEY WOULD HAVE ALL BEEN FINE

IF THAT CANAL WOULDN'T NEVER BEEN DREDGED.

YEAH, THEY WOULD'VE HAD SOME WATER,

AND, YEAH, THEY WOULD'VE HAD SOME RAIN.

WHAT?

NO, YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND.

THIS CANAL, THE MISSISSIPPI...

THE MISSISSIP...

OKAY, I'M JUST... I WAS JUST TRYING...

HELLO?

SHE HUNG UP ON ME.

(CRYING)

VERDIN: KRAZ FOUND A PLACE FOR US TO STAY NEAR HIS HOMETOWN.

WE WERE TOGETHER BUT WE STILL FELT LOST.

EVERYBODY HAS TO GET THE BALL IN THAT HOLE.

THEN THEY GO TO THE NEXT HOLE.

AND THERE'S NINE.

THAT'S WHAT THE POINT OF THE WHOLE GAME IS.

WATCH, WATCH, WATCH. OH! HE KICKED HIM OUT.

MATINE: I'VE SEEN THAT ON TV.

ON THE TV, YEAH.

VERDIN: "'A SHRIMPER HAS TO MAKE A LIVING,

"AND THERE'S NO LIVING HERE NOW.'

"MR. ROBIN SURVEYED WHAT'S LEFT OF HIS LIFE

"AND HIS WAY OF LIFE.

"'THE FAMILY SEAFOOD BUSINESS-- GONE.

"'THE ICEHOUSE-- GONE.

"'THE STORE-- GONE.

"'MAMA'S HOUSE-- GONE.

"'THIS BRIDGE-- BROKE.

"'WHO'S LEFT TO BUY OUR SHRIMP AND OUR OYSTERS?

"'WELL, THE OYSTER BEDS ARE GONE.

"'AND WHERE'S OUR MARKET?

"'IT'S GONE, TOO.

I GOT NO CHOICE. I THINK I GOTTA LEAVE.'"

VERDIN: WE WEREN'T ALLOWED TO GO BACK HOME FOR WEEKS,

SO KRAZ SNUCK INTO NEW ORLEANS ALONE.

THE SITUATION DOWN HERE IS BAD.

IT'S BIG.

AND IT'S NOT JUST NEW ORLEANS.

IT'S THE WHOLE GULF SOUTH.

BUT NEW ORLEANS IS REALLY IN ROUGH CONDITION.

YEAH, SO I JUST THOUGHT I WOULD DOCUMENT THIS SOMEHOW.

JUST TO KIND OF WATCH WHAT'S GOING ON.

TAKE NOTE, THE STRESS LEVEL'S GOING TO GET CRAZY.

VERDIN: HURRICANE RITA HIT

BEFORE WE COULD GET OUR FEET ON THE GROUND.

AFTER SIX WEEKS,

WE WERE FINALLY ABLE TO SEE MY GRANDMOTHER'S HOUSE.

I'M SCARED TO TOUCH ANYTHING.

KRASNOFF: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO MISS MOST?

LOOKING OUT THE KITCHEN WINDOW, TALKING TO MY GRANDMOTHER

WHILE SHE WASHES HER DISHES.

AND GOING AND GETTING WATER OUT OF THE CISTERN.

AND LAYING DOWN TO DREAM.

KRASNOFF: THERE'S A WHAT?

AN ARMADILLO. HE'S RIGHT THERE.

HE'S ALIVE. YEAH.

IT'S BECAUSE HE'S A DINOSAUR.

HE IS.

OH, MY GOD, HE MADE IT.

(CHUCKLES)

VERDIN: I STEPPED BACK TO PHOTOGRAPH AND REALIZED

THAT THIS HOUSE WAS THE LEAST OF OUR LOSSES.

THE LAND WAS SCARRED AND NEEDED TIME TO HEAL

FOR US TO MAKE IT HOME AGAIN.

WE FOUND OUT AN OIL TANK NEAR OUR HOUSE HAD BEEN PUSHED OVER

BY KATRINA'S FLOOD, SPILLING 1.1 MILLION GALLONS OF CRUDE OIL.

BUT THIS IS JUST A FRACTION OF THE EIGHT MILLION GALLONS OF OIL

SPILLED DURING KATRINA AND RITA.

THEY'RE SAYING, "SURE, GO IN.

"GO FIX YOUR HOUSE. GO GRAB YOUR KIDS.

"GO DANCE.

EVERYTHING'S PERFECT."

THERE'S JUST A FOOT OF OIL, BUT IT'S PERFECT, MATINE.

IS THAT THE TRUTH? NO.

PEOPLE ARE DYING, AND PEOPLE ARE GONNA DIE.

AND WHOEVER GOES TOUCH THAT POISON-- AND IT'S ALL OVER--

YOU'RE GONNA GET SICK.

VERDIN: THIS ISN'T THE FIRST TIME MY FAMILY HAS HAD TO DEAL

WITH THE OIL INDUSTRY POISONING OUR LAND.

MY COUSIN CLARICE HAS BEEN FIGHTING A LEGAL BATTLE

SINCE THE 1990S TO STOP THE DUMPING OF OIL FIELD WASTE

NEAR HER HOUSE.

HI, MY NAME IS CLARICE FRILOUX.

WE LEARNED THAT OUR CHILDREN SUFFER FROM

UPPER RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS AND BRONCHITIS.

WE LEARNED THAT OUR RESIDENTS SUFFER FROM HEART PROBLEMS,

AND THE LIST GOES ON.

FRILOUX: I CANNOT SELL MY PROPERTY.

WE HAVE NO VALUE.

YOU CANNOT GET MONEY TO BUY MY HOUSE.

KRASNOFF: WHY NOT?

BECAUSE THEY DON'T WANT TO BE LIABLE,

BECAUSE IT'S NOT A RESALE...

THERE'S NO RESALE VALUE ON OUR PROPERTY.

BECAUSE WHY IS THERE NO RESALE?

IS IT, LIKE, CONSIDERED CONDEMNED OR SOMETHING?

NO, NO, IT'S CONSIDERED AN OIL FIELD WASTE SITE.

NOBODY WANTS TO LIVE THERE.

EVEN THOUGH IT SAYS NON-HAZARDOUS,

IT STILL HAS HAZARDOUS CHARACTERISTICS.

I DON'T KNOW, I JUST THINK THAT THERE'S A STORY TO BE TOLD

AS ONE FULL BODY, YOU KNOW?

BECAUSE IT AFFECTS THE WHOLE THING.

AND IF WE CAN SOMEHOW PIECE IT TOGETHER HERE AND THERE

AND TELL IT FROM THE PEOPLE'S VOICE,

NOT FROM AN OUTSIDER'S VOICE, YOU KNOW?

BECAUSE IT IS EVERYBODY'S STORY.

IT'S NOT JUST ONE PERSON'S INTERPRETATION OF IT.

KRASNOFF: GO AHEAD.

REAL SLOW.

VERDIN: KRAZ AND I TOOK OUR CAMERAS TO THE STREETS

TO CAPTURE THE BIZARRE STATE OF ONCE-FAMILIAR PLACES.

KRASNOFF: YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, THIS IS INTENSE.

THIS IS A BAD IDEA.

TRAILER PARKS ARE A BAD IDEA.

KRASNOFF: WHAT MAKES YOU SAY THAT?

HOUSES BEING BUILT IN ST. BERNARD, PERIOD,

IS A BAD IDEA.

VERDIN: FOR ME, THIS DOCUMENTATION WAS A WAY

TO PROCESS OUR REALITY.

FOR KRAZ, IT WAS A POLITICAL STATEMENT.

THE LAND IS COMPLETELY SATURATED AND SMOTHERED WITH OIL

FROM THEIR REFINERY JUST UP THE ROAD.

SO ALL THE WATER FOR THE FISHERMEN, THE AGRICULTURE,

ALL THE LIVELIHOODS ARE POISONED BY THIS STUFF.

THE LAND IS CRACKED AND FULL OF (BLEEP) AND SMELLS BAD.

AND THE SWAMP IS BLACK WITH OIL.

IT'S CRAZY.

IT'S JUST NUTS.

VERDIN: OVERDEVELOPMENT,

UNREGULATED OIL AND GAS PRODUCTION,

AND MISGUIDED CANALS AND LEVEES ALL HAD ROLES IN THIS DISASTER.

AND I WAS STARTING TO FIND MY ROLE.

WE KEPT RETURNING TO OUR LAND DOWN BAYOU ROAD,

EVEN THOUGH OUR HOME WAS UNINHABITABLE.

GO IN.

GO CHECK IT OUT.

AND LOOK, SEE?

THESE ARE ALL SCREENS.

IF IT RAINS?

THIS IS WATERPROOF.

I MEAN...

NO, BECAUSE LOOK.

THEN THEY COME OUT.

SEE, SO YOU CAN OPEN IT UP AND YOU CAN GO IN THERE NOW

SO WHEN YOU'RE HERE AND YOU'RE WORKING, YOU CAN GO IN

AND YOU'LL BE OUT OF THE MOSQUITOES.

THE MOSQUITOES CAN'T COME IN.

VERDIN: YOU'RE NOT IMPRESSED.

I THINK IT'S COOL.

YEAH.

VERDIN: PEOPLE WERE HAVING A HARD TIME GETTING BACK HOME,

BUT THE OIL AND GAS COMPANIES SEEMED TO HAVE NO TROUBLE

PUTTING UP NEW RIGS.

KRASNOFF: I'M MARK KRASNOFF.

THIS IS MONIQUE.

HER OLD GRANDMOTHER LIVES DOWN THE ROAD BY THE PLANT.

OKAY.

YOU MIND IF I FILM YOU?

I DON'T MIND AT ALL.

TELL ME YOUR NAME.

MY NAME IS TOMMY DUNN.

AND WHAT IS THIS?

LOOKS LIKE AN OIL WELL TO ME.

IT JUST... IT JUST HAPPENED ABOUT...

THIS IS MY THIRD WEEK DOWN HERE.

AND I COME IN AND I SAW THIS DOWN HERE

AND NO ONE TELLS ME WHAT IT IS.

NOBODY TELLS ME WHAT THEY'RE DOING.

HAVEN'T SEEN NO NEWS, NOTHING LIKE THAT YET.

SO, I DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING.

THIS IS IN YOUR BACKYARD.

YEAH, RIGHT-- LESS THAN A HUNDRED FEET.

DOES IT CONCERN YOU?

WE'RE VERY CONCERNED.

ONE TIME THEY SAID THAT THEY WOULD BE

DOING SOMETHING OVER HERE.

AND THAT IF THEY WOULD COME ON THE LAND ON THE CURB,

THAT THEY NEEDED OUR PERMISSION.

AND THEY WANTED US TO SIGN THE PAPER

AND THEY WOULD GIVE US $25.

AND THEN AFTER... I SAID, "WELL, ON THE CURB...

I CAN'T STOP YOU FROM WORKING ON THIS CURB."

SO I SAID OKAY.

AND I TOOK THE PAPER AND I READ OVER IT AFTER.

AND I TOLD HIM, I SAID, "WAIT A MINUTE.

"THIS THING SAYS IT GIVES THEM PERMISSION

"TO COME ALL THE WAY ON THE LAND FOR TWO YEARS.

AND ANYTHING FOUND ON THE LAND IS THEIRS."

VERDIN: MY GRANDMOTHER SAYS IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO,

DO WHAT YOU KNOW.

BUT KRAZ WAS GROWING MORE AND MORE ANXIOUS TO SEE PROGRESS.

WOMAN (ON RADIO):I'M VERY PLEASED TO HAVE WITH ME

MARK KRASNOFF.

HE'S AN ACTOR, AN ARTIST, AN ACTIVIST,

A LIFELONG NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT.

WELCOME MARK KRASNOFF.

KRASNOFF (ON RADIO): HOW ARE YOU, DARLING?

WOMAN:JUST GIVE US SOME SORT OF OVERALL SENSE

OF THE STATE OF AFFAIRS.

KRASNOFF:THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF WHAT'S GOING ON NOW,

PEOPLE ARE TRULY, TRULY, TRULY AT THEIR KNEES

FROM EVERY CLASS, EVERY RACE, EVERY STATURE.

VERDIN: KRAZ KEPT RECORDING EVEN WHEN NO ONE WAS LISTENING.

KRASNOFF: I'M NOT SURE HOW MONIQUE AND I

ARE PULLING IT OFF.

EVERY DAY IS BASICALLY LIKE MAKING UP A NEW...

A NEW PLAN TO TRY TO GET THROUGH IT

AND YOU TRY TO DO SOMETHING POSITIVE

AND, YOU KNOW, YOU LOOK AROUND YOU

AND ALL YOU SEE IS DEVASTATION.

I CRY A LOT.

BUT I GET UP EACH DAY.

VERDIN: MY FATHER WAS ALSO LOSING HIS SENSE OF PLACE.

HE SEEMED TO BE GROWING TIRED AND WEARY.

HIS LIVER WAS FAILING HIM.

SO, WHAT HAPPENED, DAD?

I LAID ON MY SIDE.

THEY GAVE ME A LITTLE...

IT WENT DOWN MY THROAT.

I SAID, "LOOK, THIS IS NOT GOING TO INTERFERE WITH ME

WOLFING DOWN THAT BAKED POTATO, HUH?"

THEY SAID, "NO.

WE'RE GOING TO HAVE YOU WELL..."

SO THEN WHAT?

SO THEN I JUST LAID THERE TILL THEY WOKE ME UP.

VERDIN: MY FATHER CHOSE NOT TO FIGHT

AND ACCEPTED THE CONSEQUENCES OF HIS CHOICES.

THE DAY HE DIED, HE TOOK EACH OF OUR HANDS

AND SQUEEZED WITH ALL HE HAD LEFT,

THEN PEACEFULLY TOOK HIS LAST THREE BREATHS.

AND THAT WAS IT.

WITH MY FATHER GONE, I HAD LOST ANOTHER PIECE OF MY LOUISIANA.

I RETREATED TO MY MOM'S ON PENSACOLA BEACH, FLORIDA,

AND STAYED BUSY WORKING AT THE BAR SHE MANAGED.

DON'T WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING.

WHEN I RETURNED TO LOUISIANA,

THE DEBRIS FROM MY GRANDMOTHER'S HOUSE HAD BEEN CLEARED.

KRASNOFF: AND WHAT'S GOING TO GO...

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THE PROPERTY NOW?

UM, MY GRANDMOTHER AND MY UNCLE WILL BE MOVING BACK HERE

IN OCTOBER, HOPEFULLY,

TO LIVE IN A BABY DOUBLE WIDE MODULAR HOME.

VERDIN: I STARTED TO SEE THE TIMELESSNESS OF CYCLES

FROM ENDS TO BEGINNINGS.

I WAS TRYING TO MAKE PEACE WITH THE WAY LIFE WAS,

BUT KRAZ KEPT PUSHING TO EXPOSE THE INJUSTICE.

KRASNOFF: WHAT'S THE RELATIONSHIP

WITH YOU AND YOUR GRANDMOTHER

THAT YOU WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT?

HOW IS IT DISAPPEARING?

HOW IS THE LAND AFFECTING IT?

WELL, IN THE 20TH CENTURY...

TALK TO ME, MY AMOUR.

TALK TO ME.

WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY ABOUT CHARLIE AND ALL THEM?

NOT ONLY ARE WE LOSING OUR CONNECTION WITH THE LAND,

ACTUALLY, WITH LIVING ON THE LAND AND FISHING FROM THE LAND

AND FARMING ON THE LAND, BUT ALSO OUR LAND IS POLLUTED

AND IT'S WASHING AWAY DUE TO EROSION.

HOW ARE YOU LOSING YOUR CONNECTION WITH THE LAND?

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

I HATE YOU'RE DOING THIS.

(LAUGHS) SORRY.

OKAY, LET'S NOT DO A FILM, THEN.

IT'S JUST, IT'S...

YOU SAID IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO TALK...

ARE YOU READY TO TALK TO THE PEOPLE?

YEAH, BUT IT'S... I MEAN, THIS IS, LIKE, AWKWARD.

THIS FEELS AWKWARD.

WHAT, TALKING? LIKE WE WERE JUST DOING?

TALK TO ME.

VERDIN: KRAZ AND I WERE TIRED AND FRUSTRATED.

OUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE KEPT SHIFTING.

HE WAS SUCH A GOOD ACTOR,

I DIDN'T REALIZE HOW DEPRESSED HE WAS.

KRASNOFF: ♪ I CAN FEEL MYSELF SINKING

♪ I CAN FEEL

♪ MYSELF SINKING

♪ IN MY CITY

♪ I CAN SEE

♪ THERE ARE NO CHILDREN

♪ RUNNING AROUND

♪ PLAYING ON THE GROUND

♪ IN MY CITY

♪ I CAN FEEL

♪ THE TREES ARE BARE

♪ THERE'S NO ONE THERE

♪ I CAN FEEL

♪ THAT I

♪ AM ALONE

VERDIN: ON SEPTEMBER 16, 2006,

MARK KRASNOFF SHOT HIMSELF

ON THE BANKS OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER.

(SINGING)

♪ DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE, DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE ♪

♪ DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE

KRASNOFF MADE HIS OWN ASHES ON ASH WEDNESDAY THIS YEAR.

AND ASH WEDNESDAY MORNING, AFTER RUNNING THE STREETS

AND CELEBRATING AND HAPPY TO BE HOME,

WE WOKE UP THAT MORNING AND WE MADE ASHES.

AND SO THESE ARE KRASNOFF'S ASHES THAT HE MADE FOR HIMSELF.

AND WE'RE GOING TO THROW THEM INTO THE RIVER TODAY.

WOMAN: WE LOVE YOU, MARK.

NEVER, EVER FORGET YOU.

VERDIN: I WENT HOME TO MY GRANDMOTHER.

NO.

VERDIN: MY BEST FRIEND, SHARON, CAME TO VISIT.

WE TALKED ABOUT KRAZ AND THE PILE OF TAPES LEFT BEHIND.

SHARON OFFERED TO CONTINUE FILMING.

WOMAN: YOU KNOW THIS LADY?

MATINE: I KNOW HER.

I KNOW.

I JUST CAME FOR A VISIT.

VERDIN: ONE OF KRAZ'S LAST WISHES

WAS FOR OUR DOCUMENTATION WORK TO BE SHARED.

I PIECED TOGETHER AN ART SHOW I CALLED "PHOTO COFFIN BOXES."

MOLD TREATMENT.

WHEN WE CAME HOME TO ST. BERNARD,

THIS IS WHAT OUR WALLS LOOKED LIKE.

THIS ONE IS FOR MY GRANDMOTHER.

AND THEN THE INSIDE ARE PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN

ABOUT A MONTH AND A HALF BEFORE HE PASSED.

"A LOVER OF LIFE WITH A SENSITIVE SOUL,

"HE LIVED A FULL LIFE, A GOOD LIFE.

"AND THOUGH HE EXPIRED UNEXPECTEDLY,

"WHAT HE GAVE IN LIFE LIVES ON, EVEN IN DEATH,

"THROUGH THE INFLUENCE AND INSPIRATION THAT HE EXCHANGED

"WITH THOSE HE TOUCHED

AND THE LEGACY OF WORK HE HAS LEFT BEHIND."

(CAJUN MUSIC PLAYING)

VERDIN: THREE DAYS AFTER BP'S OIL RIG EXPLODES

OFF LOUISIANA'S COAST,

I'M AT A BOAT BLESSING TO OPEN SHRIMP SEASON.

NO ONE'S TALKING ABOUT THE OIL LEAK.

I TAKE MY CAMERA OUT SHRIMPING WITH MY COUSIN CHARLIE.

THIS MAY BE THE LAST HEALTHY CATCH OF THE SEASON

BEFORE THE OIL DOES ITS DAMAGE.

I GO TO TALK WITH MY COUSIN CLARICE ABOUT THE OIL LEAK.

FRILOUX: WHEN THEY'RE GOING TO GO OUT THERE,

IT'S GOING TO BE A NIGHTMARE.

IT'S GOING TO BE UGLY.

BECAUSE IT'S GONNA AFFECT A LOT MORE THAN JUST OUR MARSHES.

IT COULD BE KILLING OUR SHRIMP.

IT WILL KILL OUR SHRIMP.

AND EVENTUALLY I IMAGINE THE MARSH IS GOING TO RECUPERATE,

BUT FOR HOW LONG?

BECAUSE ONCE IT GETS IN OUR...

'CAUSE OUR MARSHES ARE LIKE SPONGES.

IT'S GOING TO GET IN THERE

AND YOU CAN'T GO IN THERE AND MOP IT UP.

IT'S NOT GOING TO WORK.

EITHER YOU HAVE TO REMOVE THE MARSH

OR LET NATURE TAKE ITS COURSE.

AND HOW MANY YEARS THAT'S GOING TO TAKE,

I DON'T KNOW.

YOU KNOW, THIS IS GOING TO BE WASTE OIL.

WHATEVER THEY DIG UP IS GOING TO BE WASTE OIL.

WHERE DO YOU THINK THIS IS GOING TO GO?

PROBABLY IN MY BACKYARD.

THEY'RE GOING TO SEND IT HERE.

AND THEN WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO FIGHT THAT AGAIN.

VERDIN: WE GO TO HEAR A BP REPRESENTATIVE

SPEAK TO THE COMMUNITY.

MAN: HOW CAN WE EXPECT A GUARANTEE FROM BP?

WHEN THIS SPILL IS CLEANED UP, WE'RE NOT GOING AWAY.

WE'RE STILL GOING TO BE DRILLING OUT HERE.

WE'RE STILL GOING TO BE EMPLOYING PEOPLE

TO WORK OFFSHORE.

WE'RE NOT GOING TO STOP DRILLING IN THE GULF OF MEXICO

AFTER THIS EVENT IS OVER WITH.

THIS IS THE BEST PLACE TO DRILL IN THE WORLD, RIGHT HERE.

SO WE'RE NOT GOING AWAY.

VERDIN: CLOSED FISHERIES FORCED MY FAMILY TO WORK

FOR THE BP OIL CLEANUP.

THE PROGRAM IS CALLED THE VESSELS OF OPPORTUNITY.

OIL SEEPS INTO OUR WETLANDS.

AND THIS IS GROWING TO BECOME

THE LARGEST ACCIDENTAL OIL SPILL EVER IN MARINE WATERS.

I DECIDED TO FINISH MY BACHELOR'S DEGREE

AT LOYOLA UNIVERSITY IN MASS COMMUNICATION.

I WAS TRYING TO FIND THE PART IN HERE ABOUT...

VERDIN: I'VE STARTED LEADING STUDENTS

AND RESEARCHERS ON TOURS, GIVING A NATIVE PERSPECTIVE

OF LOUISIANA'S ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS.

WHICH, DURING HURRICANE KATRINA,

ONE OF THE HOLDING TANKS FLOATED OFF OF ITS BASE.

LOUISIANA WAS FULL OF... IT WAS AN ENCHANTED FOREST.

IT WAS, YOU KNOW, HUGE, MASSIVE CYPRESS TREES,

AMAZING WETLANDS, ECOSYSTEM, ESTUARIES.

BUT IT'S JUST BEEN CUT DOWN THE TREES, CUT THROUGH THE EARTH

TO MAKE THESE WATERWAYS

TO LAY PIPELINE, TO HAVE SHIPPING CANALS, TO CONTROL...

VERDIN: I NEVER WANTED TO BECOME A POLITICAL ACTIVIST,

BUT NOW I FIND MYSELF BRINGING JARS OF OIL

FROM OUR BAYOUS TO THE SENATE.

ALL I'VE EVER WANTED IS TO BE HOME IN LOUISIANA.

ON THE SAME SPOT WHERE MY PARENTS HAD THEIR TRAILER,

I'M BUILDING A PORTABLE HOME FOR MYSELF

OUT OF A SHIPPING CONTAINER.

I WOULD PULL IT IN AND START TO THINK OF A WALL RIGHT HERE.

SO IT'S JUST DO YOU WANT THAT?

VERDIN: THE SEA LEVEL KEEPS RISING.

WEATHER KEEPS GETTING MORE EXTREME.

AND NOW, A YEAR LATER,

BP CLEANUP WORKERS ARE GETTING SICK.

FRILOUX: WE'RE GOING TO SEE PEOPLE GETTING SICK,

ESPECIALLY PEOPLE WHO WORKED DIRECTLY IN THE OIL.

IT WILL BE OUR NATIVE AMERICAN PEOPLE WHO WILL BE LOST.

THE WHOLE GENERATION THAT CLEANED UP THE GULF

THAT COULD BE GONE IN TEN YEARS.

AND NOT TO MENTION DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE

AND ALSO SUICIDES.

BECAUSE THEY'RE SAYING PEOPLE ARE DEPRESSED.

YOU KNOW, WE'VE BEEN TREATED BAD THROUGHOUT THE YEARS,

BUT THIS, TO ME, COULD DESTROY OUR TRIBE, OUR TRIBAL PEOPLE,

OR OUR INDIAN PEOPLE, AS A WHOLE.

VERDIN: SINCE LOSING MY FATHER AND KRAZ,

I CAN SEE HOW THE ILLNESS OF OUR LAND AND WATERS

BREEDS ILLNESS ON OUR PEOPLE.

BUT OUR LOVE TIES US TO THIS PLACE

AND MAKES US FEEL RESPONSIBLE TO CARE FOR IT.

IT WAS BY INSTINCT I FIRST PICKED UP A CAMERA

AND STARTED DOCUMENTING MY FAMILY.

AND NOW THESE IMAGES AND STORIES BEAR WITNESS

TO A DISAPPEARING LOUISIANA.

WOMAN: WAIT, WAIT, LET HER MAKE A WISH.

LET HER MAKE THE WISH.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

I SOMETIMES WONDER IF I GROW TO BE AS OLD AS MY GRANDMOTHER,

WILL I BE ABLE TO LIVE BY THE CYCLES OF THE MOON,

COLLECT RAINWATER IN A CISTERN,

AND CALL MY LOUISIANA HOME?

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