Life On The 'Rez' - For Some
Rep. Robert Ney R-Ohio, chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee on housing and community opportunity was one of the members of the subcommittee’s first-ever tour of housing conditions on Native American land. Ney said, “I’ve been to 48 or 50 different countries and that housing is comparable to the Third World. These are the toughest living conditions I’ve ever seen.”
The tour was arranged by Rep. Rick Renzi R- AZ who was appalled at housing he saw in his district after being elected about 18 months ago. “I visited Kaibito and saw three children, their stomachs distended with dysentery, living in a mud hut with their grandmother.”
“How can I call myself a congressman and not do something about this?" He asked Congressman Ney to see the conditions for himself. He agreed and the tour was arranged.
Housing on reservation is substandard because of poverty and lack of infrastructure like water, sewers and electrical service. Because much of the land is held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, individuals do not own the land and cannot use it for collateral to secure loans or mortgages and lack of employment disqualifies many tribal members to obtain credit.
The group visited the home site of an 80 year old Navajo woman whose home burned down three years ago. Because she is living in the Hopi-Navajo land dispute area she has been unable to rebuild her house and lives in a 6 by 8 foot tent shored up with tarps and bits of wood she scavenges. A stovepipe sticks up in front of the tent. A discarded school desk serve as a table.
Last on the tour was a modern eight-sided Hogan built with nine inch logs built with high-school labor and federal grant money through the non-profit company indigenous Community Enterprises. The new owner, Annie Jackson, said she had been awaiting the new home since 1980. Jackson has raised 10 children and has 22 grandchildren, five of whom are in her custody.
Following the tour, the subcommittee heard from members of the heads of several Indian tribes at a meeting in Tuba City: Kathleen Kitcheyen, chairwoman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe; Joe Shirley, Jr. president of the Navajo Nation; Chad Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma; Johnny Endfield, vice chairman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and Wayne Taylor Jr., chairman of the Hopi Tribe.
The tribal leaders said that at the current funding level it would take 123 years to meet the current need, and budgets are being cut every year. The sub-committee members vowed to return to Washington and worked for improved funding and other solutions.
Kitcheyen asserted,“We are very patriotic and many of our members have served in Iraq and we are proud of them, but when we see billions being spent in Iraq to rebuild their homes and infrastructure, we wonder why the United States is helping them while putting the issues of the First American aside.”
This story has been edited from the May 4th edition of The Arizona Republic bylined Judy Nichols.
In another story from the same Republic edition comes the headline ‘Bush seeks $25 bil more for military’ That is in addition to the $400 billion already sought for worldwide military use.
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