South Louisiana is mostly swamp or bayou, so when Cherri Foytlin wanted to share her disapproval with the Bayou Bridge pipeline, she literally didn’t have solid ground to stand on. Instead, she and other protest organizers built a floating prayer camp made of rafts. “Historically, the swamp is where resistance has gathered,” she told me. “Escaped slaves, indigenous communities escaping colonization.
The swamp protects us, so of course this is where our camp would be—with the water.” The proposed pipeline she’s fighting would be a 162-mile extension of an existing pipeline in Texas. If approved, the Bayou Bridge pipeline would pass through 11 Louisiana parishes. Foytlin, a Diné and Cherokee mother of six, has been a prominent leader in the struggle against it. Camp L’eau Est La Vie, French for “water is life,” is constantly changing and growing, with new rafts or indigenous art pieces being added on. Foytlin tells me that she and other organizers are intentionally keeping many details about the camp secret—a lesson learned from watching Standing Rock, where outsiders flocked to the anti-pipeline camps after the battle against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) became a national cause.