See an American town that's about to be completely lost to climate change.

The Jean Charles band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw have lived in the same place for more than 200 years.

The tribe's oral history has it that a Frenchman named Jean Marie Naquin married a Native American woman named Pauline Verdin in the early 1800s — and that Mr. Naquin's parents didn't take too kindly to their child's mixed marriage.

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The couple fled this familial wrath and settled on Isle de Jean Charles, a narrow inlet in the Louisiana bayou near Terrebonne Parish, about 11 miles off the mainland. The couple was soon joined by several other Native American families and this small community of indigenous Cajuns has lived there ever since...


A thatched roof island home on Isle de Jean Charles. Photo from NARA/New Deal Network/Library of Congress.

until now...

By the middle of the 20th century, there were nearly 400 people living on the island. At that point, the land was 11 miles long and five miles wide — providing this Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe with 55 square miles of lush, open land on which to hunt, farm, and thrive.

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But all that's left today is a half square mile of marshland — two miles long and a quarter-mile wide — with two dozen families struggling to survive.

Isle de Jean Charles in 2007, after Hurricane Gustave. Photo by Karen Gadbois/Flickr.

Over the last half-century, rising water levels and increasingly frequent natural disasters have all but destroyed the Louisiana shoreline.

"I'm not going to keep doing this," said Chief Albert Naquin in 2008. Naquin is a direct descendent of the island's first settlers, who inherited the title from his brother in 1997. 

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But Naquin himself doesn't even live on the island anymore. He packed up and moved across the bayou in the 1970s, in an effort to keep his job on the mainland — because the only road off the island was quickly disappearing. The chief had hoped that the rest of his tribe would follow, but 40 years later, some 25 families still remain.

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"At one time I didn't want to relocate — I thought it would be like another Trail of Tears," he told the Washington Post in 2009. "But now I see that is a selfish viewpoint. It's only a matter of time before the island's gone — one more good hurricane, and we'll be wiped out."

Albert Naquin's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Victor Naquin. Photo by NARA/New Deal Network/Library of Congress.

But the families who still live there don't want to lose that ancestral connection to the island.

"All of our history, all of our ancestral line — that's where our people are buried. That's where our family members were born," said Chantel Coverdelle, the community's tribal secretary. "They were raised there, and they raised their kids and grandkids. We've been there forever."

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The island's remaining residents still speak their own colloquial French-Cajun dialect and work as fishermen, oystermen, and fur trappers to survive. But ecological damage has made that work hard to come by too.

"People used to grow everything themselves; now you have to buy canned beans," a member of the tribe explained to the Washington Post. "People used to have cattle, but now you don't because you don't have any place to put them. We used to do for ourselves; now we have to rely on stores, and that means we have to get different jobs. It used to be everyone would share; now that's not around anymore. It just kills me."

"Island Road," the only landbridge between the island and the mainland, which was built in 1953 and still floods during storms. Screenshot from "Can't Stop the Water"/Vimeo.

Not to mention the island's last schoolhouse, a tiny one-room structure, closed nearly 50 years ago. This has created a devastating cycle of poverty and undereducation for those who remain on the island.

While it might be too late to save Isle de Jean Charles itself, it's not too late to save the tribe — thanks to a $48 million grant from the U.S. government.

Dardar is illiterate, so his son made this sign for him. Screenshot from "Can't Stop the Water"/Vimeo.

This last-minute financial savior comes as part of a National Disaster Resilience competition through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is providing more than $1 billion in funding for American communities that have suffered from natural disasters — making the Jean Charles band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw the first official U.S. refugees from climate change.

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"I’m very, very excited. I’ve been working on this for 13 years," Chief Naquin told Indian Country Today.

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"Now we’re getting a chance to reunite the family. They’re excited as well. Our culture is going to stay intact, [but] we’ve got to get the interest back in our youth."

It's nice to finally see the U.S. government taking action to protect Native Americans. Let's just hope it happens again.

Climate change isn't going away. In fact, it's only getting worse from here on out. 

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And while we can't undo the mass eradication of Native American people, it's not too late for us to help the ones left — especially since towns like Kivalina and Shishmaref have already spent years dealing with the brunt of our worsening planetary disaster.

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At the rate we're going, cultural preservation is the only hope we have. But if we work together, maybe that's enough.

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Here's the trailer for a documentary film about the tribe on Isle de Jean Charles:

via Kat Stickler / TikTok

Kat Stickler has created a hilarious series of videos about her husband that a lot of women say they can relate to because theirs behave the exact same way.

Stickler is a mother who shares funny videos about her domestic life on TikTok where she's earned over six million followers.

In the videos, she transforms into her husband Mike by throwing on a backward baseball cap and adopting a deeper voice. From the videos, it's pretty clear that Mike always wants some sort of praise for doing the things he's supposed to do.

The interesting thing about the couple is that they went from dating to parents pretty much overnight. Three months after their first date, Kat was pregnant and they were married.

Keep Reading Show less
via Kat Stickler / TikTok

Kat Stickler has created a hilarious series of videos about her husband that a lot of women say they can relate to because theirs behave the exact same way.

Stickler is a mother who shares funny videos about her domestic life on TikTok where she's earned over six million followers.

In the videos, she transforms into her husband Mike by throwing on a backward baseball cap and adopting a deeper voice. From the videos, it's pretty clear that Mike always wants some sort of praise for doing the things he's supposed to do.

The interesting thing about the couple is that they went from dating to parents pretty much overnight. Three months after their first date, Kat was pregnant and they were married.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."