The crew behind the Oglala Sioux Tribe's Trail of Hope for Indian Housing is headed back to Pine Ridge, but the dilapidated home they hauled all the way from South Dakota to D.C. will not be returning with them. The home was brought to D.C. to raise awareness of the dire housing situation on reservations like Pine Ridge, and a rally was held at Union Square near the U.S. Capitol Building Wednesday to call Congress's attention to the plight of so many. After the successful event, the 1961 structure has been donated to the Smithsonian National Musuem of the American Indian to display in a forthcoming exhibit. The museum currently doesn't have space for the home, though, so the Piscataway Conoy in Accokeek, Maryland, has offered to store the building for the time being.
Here are some resources for further information about improving the housing situation for American Indians on reservations:
NAIHC Flickr site, with photos of Wednesday's rally
Here you can watch a video of speakers during the event on Wednesday:
This statement was published on the Trail of Hope for Indian Housing's Facebook page:
About 70 people gathered at Union Square in front the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on April 17 to view a house that was brought from the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. A group of volunteers and executive directors of tribal housing authorities in South Dakota made the journey to Washington, DC as a part of the "Trail of Hope for Indian Housing" initiative to show Congress the state of Indian housing in tribal communities.
"The main reason we brought the house to Washington, DC is to show Congress how people are living in Pine Ridge and the types of housing they are living in," said Paul Iron Cloud, Executive Director of the Oglala Sioux Housing Authority. "Often there are two to three families living in one house. Housing is important for Pine Ridge. Families are just getting started and they have no place to live. There are no jobs. We need more money for law and order, courts, and especially housing."
A staffer from Senator Tim Johnson's (D-SD) office spoke stating that one of the Senator's goals in the 113th Congress is the reauthorization of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act, which helps tribes provide greater housing opportunities and housing related community development in tribal communities. Staffers from the offices of Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Kristi Noem's (R-SD) were also present.
Representatives from the National Congress of American Indians, HUD's Office of Native American Programs, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, and NAIHC were also in attendance.
In a statement, NAIHC Chairwoman Causley said, "NAIHC would like to highlight the efforts of the Trail of Hope. The Dakota tribes are taking one of the first housing units built in Indian Country to Washington, DC to show Congress and the American people the shameful conditions many American Indians currently live in."
Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) visited the site and talked with the group about the house that was originally built in 1961 as one of Pine Ridge's first tribal housing projects.
"I told Senator Heitkamp that the housing need in Indian Country is so great and that we need some oversight field hearings in South Dakota," said Mr. Iron Cloud. "I really appreciate that she came to see the house. She's really interested in housing."
Mr. Iron Cloud estimated that there are about 40,000 people living on the Pine Ridge reservation and there is a need of 1,100 additional housing units. With the recent sequestration cuts and the release of the President's Budget Request Proposal, Pine Ridge's housing budget may be cut by about $1.5 million, Mr. Iron Cloud said.
Several tourists walking along the National Mall stopped to read the signs on the house that read "A month ago, 13 people lived in this 2-bedroom/1-bath home" and "It's About Justice." The house, which sat on a flatbed trailer, was decorated with a star quilt and the American and Oglala Lakota Sioux flags. The trip was organized by volunteers and paid for by donations. The group is taking the house to a tribe located in Maryland.
"We had a good day. I feel really good about it," Mr. Iron Cloud said. "I hope by bringing the house here, Congress will look at it and realize that tribes need houses and that we live in poverty, and they need to uphold the treaties with tribes."
Mr. Stuart Langdeau, Executive Director of the Lower Brule Housing Authority in South Dakota also made the journey with the group. Both Mr. Iron Cloud and Mr. Langdeau are members of the NAIHC Board of Directors representing Region 3 (ND, SD, NE, IA).
NAIHC Chairwoman Causley added, "NAIHC hopes that the Trail of Hope is successful in highlighting the ongoing need for housing in Indian Country, Alaska Native Villages and Native Hawaiian Homelands."