Semester of Graduation
Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)
Coastal Louisiana is bountiful in cultural and ecological diversity. Spotted with thriving estuaries, meandering bayous and swamps, and rippling grasses of coastal marshes, these wetland ecosystems sequester carbon, purify floodwaters, and buffer against storm surge. Historically, southern wetland landscapes have offered refuge to people of many folk and ethnic traditions escaping violence and oppression. Until the mid-twentieth century, the people living in present-day Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes enjoyed relative isolation from the rest of America, constructing cultural practices that emphasized attachment to wetland plants, animals, and ecosystem dynamics.
Today, changing environmental conditions and high rates of relative sea level rise are causing rapid land loss and habitat destruction, forcing people to reluctantly move inland, “up the bayou.” Wetland ecosystem decline brings increasing vulnerability to hurricanes and flooding, and erodes connections to places, landscapes, and ecosystems central to people’s sense of identity and traditions. This erasure constitutes environmental injustice, separating peoples from their socioecological contexts and their ways of being in the world.
To encourage cultural continuity in the face of environmental change, this thesis looks to expand access to wetland ecosystems in receiver communities up the bayou, imagining renewed domestic relationships between homes and wetlands. It explores the unique and plural ways of relating to the environment through the study of endemic foodways – food-related traditions that link cultures with geography and are common to the expression of identity. It celebrates and highlights these cultural relationships by mapping samples of wetland foodway traditions from three folk groups – Cajun, Houma Indian, and Black folks – in present-day Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. Building from local knowledge and resilience projects presented during the 2017 – 2019 the Louisiana Strategic Adaptation’s for Future Environments (LA SAFE) planning process, it draws from oral histories and archival documents, interviews, and literatures on landscape justice and place attachment to propose design strategies that support the continuation of wetland foodway traditions as the sea continues to rise.
La Rue, Deborah, "Celebrating Wetland Foodways: Joining Ecosystems & Cultures on the Louisiana Gulf Coast" (2022). LSU Master's Theses. 5554.