New Orleans has always been a site of healing — even before the French Mississippi Company officially founded the Louisiana city in 1718. 1300 years before Europeans colonized the swampy land, the Mississippi culture, a mound-building Native American civilization, thrived in the bayou, using the herbs of the land for healing rituals linked to the cycles of agriculture. After les Français and los Españoles moved in with their European-trained pharmacists and brought in African slaves who had their own medicinal traditions, Louisiana’s apothecary heritage became as creole as its music, cuisine, and language.
Ten years ago Brittani Bader’s parents put their children in a car with relatives to escape Hurricane Katrina. Despite getting his children to safety, Bader’s father tried to leave the flood zone too late and ended up having to ride out the storm. When Bader and her family were reunited, their joy was quickly replaced by shock when they returned to what was left of their house.