WASHINGTON--November 18, 2005-- Organizations fighting for Indian Country hear the stereotypes all the time--from the entertainment industry, the press, potential funders and the public -- that all tribes are rich from gaming and do not need resources for affordable housing and other basic human needs. This myth ignores the fact that homeownership rate is low for Native Americans on reservations (half that of the general population), housing conditions are substandard, and unemployment rates are high--and that gaming is not a cure-all for these conditions. The National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC) plans to use its resources to tell the public and Congress the actual reality of housing on reservations.
1 in 10 Indian Homes Lack Kitchen Facilities
NAIHC is committed to educating important parties to the facts of the very substandard nature of Indian housing:
¥ The homeownership rate is less than 33 percent for Native Americans on reservations, according to the Government Accounting Office (GAO).
¥ 40 percent of Indians live in substandard housing or are under-housed.
¥ 12 percent of Indian houses lack kitchen facilities and 11 percent lack bathrooms (compared to 1 percent of the general population).
¥ Indian housing on reservations is rampantly overcrowded (in some cases, 20-30 people living in a 2- or 3- bedroom home).
"There needs to be more public awareness regarding homeownership and housing conditions among Native Americans," said NAIHC Chairman Chester Carl. "NAIHC is committed to debunking myths and stereotypes year-round, but it is especially important during Native American Heritage Month."
Unemployment Among Gaming Tribes: 42 percent
Too often the media and entertainment industry have misrepresented Native Americans' status due to the misconception that all tribes have gaming and that casinos are providing an influx of cash for Native Americans. For many gaming tribes, the primary benefit is employment, as they now provide 400,000 jobs (75 percent of them to non-Indians). A recent survey of NAIHC membership showed that unemployment was 42 percent among gaming tribes, versus 43 percent for those without gaming.
Remoteness of the reservation land to which most tribes were historically displaced limits the economic development needed to sustain housing. Gaming for most tribes is far from a shoo-in for success. As NAIHC reported last year, among 562 federally recognized tribes, of the 224 that have gone into gaming, 90 make less than 1 percent of the industry's gross revenue. Two-thirds of the gaming operations account for just 10 percent of the overall revenue with annual gross revenue of $25 million or less. The remaining one-third account for 90 percent of the revenue.
An estimated 200,000 housing units are needed immediately in Indian country and approximately 90,000 Native families are homeless or under-housed (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, "A Quiet Crisis: Federal Funding and Unmet Needs in Indian Country" 2003). Yet these stories are not reported asfrequently or strongly as those of tribal land disputes and casino revenues. NAIHC's agenda is straightforward: to help provide an accurate media representation of the conditions of housing in Indian Country. This effort takes special importance and effort in November, which Congress designated as National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.
A Time to Dispel Harmful Myths
"This is a time for thanksgiving to all our indigenous ancestors who contributed to the rich cultural traditions that give our tribal nations such resilience," said NAIHC Executive Director Gary L. Gordon. "As mainstream America proclaims to want to understand where we're coming from, what better time to dispel harmful myths that abound?"
For example, NAIHC is committed to dispelling the myth that tribes have all hit the jackpot with casinos and therefore don't need any financial assistance on housing or other matters of well-being, because it distorts perceptions of people who might otherwise be more inclined to ally with us.
"It creates fog in the eyes of those looking to advance Indian housing in spite of all the barriers that are already there," Gordon said. "So this is a time to educate as well as celebrate."
Indian country has six times the rate of substandard housing as the general public, yet the already short fallen funding is always on the short list for real and proposed cuts, which is one of the reasons that
NAIHC must educate Congress and the public. There have also been dazzling successes in housing projects, homeownership, finance leveraging, and other demonstrations that Indian housing is a good investment. "We need to mention that as well, and to make that the more common reality." Gordon said.
From offensive Indian sports mascots to news articles to jokes from comedians about casinos and rich tribes, stereotypes and myths about Native Americans pervade popular culture and hurt efforts to improve housing and economic development for tribes. NAIHC is committed to creating a more accurate picture,
including the often-times disturbing reality about Indian housing and living conditions.