Houma Nation advocate inspires students

March 9, 2012 5:43 AM

Aidan Smith

“This generation of fishermen we have now may be one of the last,” said Brenda Dardar Robichaux, the former principal chief of the Houma Nation, noting changes brought upon her community following the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010. She was on the Tulane campus on Tuesday (March 6) at the invitation of the student organization Women in Politics.

Brenda Robicheaux

Native American activist Brenda Dardar Robichaux inspires students with the story of her tireless work for the Houma Nation in coastal Louisiana. (Photo by Cheryl Gerber)

Robichaux’s work after the devastating hurricanes of 2005 earned her national recognition, but her attention is now focused on environmental justice and its impact on native fishermen. Her work has taken her around the country, from the statehouse floor to networking with other indigenous groups to find solutions to environmental problems.

Newcomb College Institute’s Women in Politics group invited Robichaux to speak to the campus community because the organization wanted to highlight female leadership in Louisiana as its first keynote lecture.

“Between her time as the principal chief of the Houma Nation and her diverse background in activism, from equality in education to recovery after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and now recovery since the Gulf Oil Spill, Robichaux has tirelessly advocated for the rights of the people in her community,” said junior Christina McLennan, the group’s treasurer.

Robichaux told the students about how she found her own voice as an activist, beginning with work with her local school board to becoming a national representative for the tribe.

She has been an activist in southern Louisiana for decades. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita she worked to find more than 5,000 dislocated members of the Houma Nation and started the United Houma Relief Fund, which provides aid to 8,000 Houma families. She was named one of the “10 Heroes of the Storm” by the Times-Picayune for her efforts, and she was recognized by the Ms. Foundation as a Woman of Vision in 2008.

Aidan Smith is external affairs officer for the Newcomb College Institute.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000