Colette Pichon Battle of the Cane River Creole

"And so when it came down to where I grew up...the Indigenous folks and the Creole folks were put together, and there wasn't a real distinction between the two. They shared a culture...They shared a geography.” 

--Colette Pichon Battle


Colette Pichon Battle (she/her) is an attorney and Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy who resides in Slidell, Louisiana. She was born in Shreveport into a Louisiana Black family of Caddo ancestry and Creole family of Choctaw ancestry with roots in  St. Tammany Parish and marital ties to Cane River. She grew up in Morgan City and Slidell. She is a graduate of Kenyon College and Southern University Law Center.  She has lived and studied in Africa in Morocco, Mauretania, and Senegal. She has worked as an attorney in Florida, Washington, D.C., and south Louisiana with  her practice focusing on issues related to im/migration, the environment, climate disasters, and racial justice issues related to the energy industry and the US economic system.

Colette worked with local communities, national funders, and elected officials in the post-Katrina and post-Deepwater Horizon disaster recovery. She was a lead coordinator for Gulf South Rising 2015, a regional initiative around climate justice and just transition in the South. In 2015 Colette was selected as an Echoing Green Climate Fellow, in 2016 she was named a White House Champion of Change for Climate Equity, and in 2018 Kenyon College awarded her an Honorary Doctorate. In 2019, Colette was named an Obama Fellow for her work with Black and Native communities on the frontline of climate change and she gave a TED Talk, “Climate change will displace millions. Here’s how we prepare.” In 2021, Colette was appointed a Margaret Burroughs Community Fellow.

Colette serves on the boards of the US Climate Action Network and the Highlander Research and Education Center, is a member of the Movement for Black Lives policy table leadership team, advises the Kataly Foundation’s Environmental Justice Resourcing Collective, and chairs the Equity Advisory Group of the Louisiana Governor’s Climate Initiative Task Force.

In her talk she discusses personal history, the culture of various communities of Louisiana Creoles, environmental issues and the climate crisis, and solidarity between peoples on the frontlines  of climate change.

Louisiana Creoles

Louisiana Creoles are a mixed ethnicity population arising out of Free People of Color from the Antebellum Era. Creole People have often been pigeonholed as being simply “Black” or “Colored,” but more recent scholarship has focused on understanding Louisiana Creoles as part of a mixed ethnicity population that has endured cultural erasure and inaccurate categorization by others. Louisiana Creole heritage includes African, European, and Indigenous ancestry. 

The history of racial classification in Louisiana is complex, and is intertwined with the history of slavery, and particularly with the history of enslavement of Indigenous Peoples in Louisiana. Enslaved Natives were often reclassified ethnically. It is common for Louisiana Creoles to have a close relationship with their Indigenous identity, and even to self-describe ethnically as “Louisiana Creole and Choctaw,” “Creole and Indian,” etc.  Much of Louisiana’s Indigenous Culture is preserved in Creole culture, including foodways and music. Andrew Jolivétte, himself both a Louisiana Creole and member of the Atakapa-Ishak Nation, argues that tribes that are heavily creolized “still exist, only now they exist as complex populations with important historical, political, social, and cultural relevancy to understanding mixed-race Native Americans in contemporary U.S. society.”

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In collaboration with Ida Aronson, Jeffery Darensbourg, and Hali Dardar