The Trail of Hope for Indian Housing initiative has carted a house 1,500 miles from South Dakota and is displaying it next to the U.S. Capitol Building to highlight the terrible housing conditions on Indian reservations.
(UPDATE: The event is streaming live on the Internet for those who can't attend in person. Click here for details.)
The facades of an actual house from the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation arrived in Washington, D.C., by motorcade yesterday and will be placed at Union Square (3rd Street NW) today, Wednesday, April 17. The site adjacent to the U.S. Capitol will be open to the public from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) and John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) are both scheduled to speak, as is Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. Several tribal officials will also be on hand.
The house is actually part of the original home and has been reconfigured so it can be opened up in Washington as a walk-through display. Viewers will be able to go inside and witness its poor condition, as well as read testaments by Pine Ridge residents about their gritty living conditions. It will be on display for 24 hours and remain in D.C., perhaps with the Smithsonian.
The dilapidated structures are typical of the overcrowded and sub-standard housing conditions where Northern Plains Indians are forced to live. Many Indian reservations have the worst housing in the United States. Tens of thousands of Indians often have to live three families to a unit with as many as 18 people crowded into aging two-bedroom houses.
"Since Washington cannot come to the reservation, we will take the reservation to Washington," said Paul Iron Cloud, executive director of the Oglala Sioux Housing Authority, in a release. "Washington and America will learn of the current conditions on many of our largest and most preeminent reservations."
Oglala Sioux Tribal officials say the reservation's ability to build new homes is suffering under federal budget cuts while their population is growing.
"We need 4,000 homes," said Iron Cloud told the Rapid City Journal. "We only have 1,100."