Vol. LIV No. 7
July 2019

Five Civilized Tribes to utilize $75 million housing allocation

TULSA, Okla. – The Five Civilized Tribes have been allocated more than $75 million by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for 2018 Indian housing.

Wayne Sims, HUD administrator of the Southern Plains Office of Native American Programs, made the announcement during the Five Civilized Tribes’ Inter-Tribal meeting July 13 in Tulsa.

The federal budgets were approved, Mr. Sims said, and tribes could expect funds quickly.

“That is a lot of money coming to tribes and I am proud to say those funds are now available to them,” he said. “After all the necessary paperwork, the funds will be available very, very soon.”

Additionally, $100 million is in a pool that tribes may seek to augment housing budgets. Tribes, Mr. Sims said, would be receiving information soon on how to apply for additional funding through the pool.

Tribal leaders, citizens and staff were hosted by the Muscogee Creek Nation. The Inter-Tribal Council was formed in 1950 and collectively represents more than 750,000 citizens of the Chickasaw, Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee Creek and Seminole nations.

Council leaders passed four resolutions at the third quarterly meeting of 2018.

A resolution supporting expansion of the Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program for all tribal citizens living in selected counties in Texas and Arkansas was approved by the Council.

Specifically noting the Section 184 program is a home mortgage product established for American Indians since 1992, the Council said many tribal citizens in the Texas counties of Grayson, Fannin, Lamar, Dallas, and Collin were not eligible for the loan because the program does not have a presence in these locations.

Grayson, Fannin and Lamar counties border Oklahoma. Dallas and Collin counties are located in areas where economic growth is great. Cities in Collin County include McKinney, Plano and Frisco. Cities in Dallas County include Dallas, Garland, Richardson, Irving, Mesquite and Grand Prairie.

In Arkansas, the counties include Benton, Washington, Crawford and Sebastian counties. Benton takes in cities that represent the greatest growth in Arkansas. They include Rogers, Bentonville, Siloam Springs and other important tourist communities. Fayetteville and Springdale are included in Washington County. Crawford County includes the community of Van Buren and Sebastian County includes historic Fort Smith.

Proposed reorganization of the U.S. Department of Interior – including the Bureau of Indian Affairs into 13 regions – is causing concern in Indian Country.

Council leaders unanimously passed a resolution calling for “meaningful tribal consultations before any action is taken on a proposed reorganization of the Department of the Interior.”

“The new unified regional directors will be responsible for a much larger jurisdiction area, possibly increasing bureaucratic inefficiencies and slowing the decision-making process on issues important to the Inter-Tribal Council tribes and Indian Country,” the resolution stated.

Council tribal governments expressed concern for all Indian nations, saying many could be adversely affected nationwide if the reorganization is adopted.

“This plan could exacerbate an already ongoing personnel crisis at BIA and Interior where there is a shortage of knowledgeable and experienced staff that understand tribal issues,” the resolution said.

Officials are currently embarked on a “listening tour” concerning the changes.

Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has said the goal was to unify the agencies, bureaus and offices throughout the country by placing them into regions based largely on natural features, such as watersheds, rather than state or reservation boundaries. But Secretary Zinke said Indian Country will determine the fate of the BIA.

“The nations, they’re sovereign,” Secretary Zinke told members of the House Committee on Appropriations in April. “We are beginning consultation, and whether or not they adopt this model is really up to them.”

Oklahoma tribes will have an opportunity to talk about the proposed changes in Oklahoma City Aug. 7. The U.S. government, the Council resolution states, should refrain from making any changes to the Interior or the BIA before that date. Additionally, the Council called for the federal government to provide an opportunity for all tribes to comment on reorganization plans before they are finalized.

In other matters, the Five Civilized Tribes called for an economic impact study to gauge the tribes’ economic footprint in Oklahoma. The comprehensive report would highlight the economic significance of tribes as far as employers and drivers of economic growth. The tribes called for the Oklahoma Tribal Finance Consortium to coordinate the study and provide the statistics to the public.

A 2011 study by Oklahoma City University showed tribes contributing billions of dollars to Oklahoma’s economy annually.

Council voting members called for Haley Buzzard Hamilton to serve on the board of regents for Haskell Indian Nations University. Ms. Hamilton is a Cherokee citizen and a Haskell alumnus. The school is located in Lawrence, Kansas. The university is a federally operated tribal school of higher education founded in 1884.

Ms. Hamilton “has the necessary knowledge and experience to serve the students … and will work to make the university a premiere education institution for citizens of federally recognized tribes,” the Council said in making the recommendation.

The final 2018 quarterly meeting Council will be Oct. 10-12 in Durant hosted by the Choctaw Nation.