House makes way to Washington

Sioux Falls AP

KYLE, S.D. (AP) — Members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe loaded an old home on a truck trailer and began hauling it to the nation’s capital Saturday to demonstrate housing problems on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The two-bedroom house, a gray wooden box that was once a home for 13 people on the southwestern South Dakota reservation, was built in the 1960s, the Rapid City Journal reported.

Tribal officials said the reservation’s ability to build new homes is suffering under federal budget cuts.

Paul Iron Cloud, chief executive officer of the tribe’s Housing Authority, said the reservation needs 4,000 homes but has only 1,100.

Displaying the home in Washington, D.C., is meant to “show Congress what kind of substandard housing we live in,” Iron Cloud said.

The tribe currently has only enough money to build about 10 houses a year, Iron Cloud said. The tribe’s Housing Authority had a budget of about $11.5 million last year, but federal budget cuts have reduced that funding to $10 million this year.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the reservation’s population in 2010 was about 19,000 people, but tribal officials believe the census substantially undercounted the number of people living on the reservation. Local estimates indicate that the reservation’s population exceeds 40,000, said Wilbur Between Lodges, a spokesman for the Housing Authority.

“It’s growing quite a bit,” Between Lodges said of the reservation’s population.

Between Lodges, who grew up in a house with a dirt floor and no plumbing, said a low census number affects the amount of housing dollars the tribe can receive. One reason people don’t report all the occupants in a house is because that would bring an increase in rent, he said.

Without homes for the reservation’s growing number of young people, two or three generations wind up living in a home, Between Lodges said.

The house being hauled to Washington has been reconfigured so it can be opened up as a walk-through display, allowing people to witness its poor condition and read testaments by reservation residents about their living conditions.

The house is scheduled to stop in Sioux Falls, Des Moines and Cleveland. It will eventually sit on display near the U.S. Capitol building for a day.