Podcast: Play in new window | Download | Embed
Native Americans in Montana face a slew of challenges to finding housing off reservations – including claims of discrimination.
A tight housing market in the state and across the country presents its own problems for finding an affordable place to live.
Eric Tegethoff reports.
Les Left Hand with All Nation Youth Partner for Success in Billings says his last name was a barrier for him and his wife when they were looking for a home. He says eventually they used her maiden name on applications.
“When she applied for some of these places as just ‘Leslie Martin’ they were more open to that until they saw my name on there. Then that’s when the red flags were waved and, of course, some of them were just outright not willing to talk to us.”
Left Hand’s organization works to prevent drug use among young people ages nine to 20 and he says people they work with, as well as his friends and family, have similar experiences.
Rental costs like security deposits and first and last months’ rent can be challenges as well.
Analyses on housing issues for Native Americans are scarce, but a study from before the pandemic found 16% of Native Americans reported overcrowding, compared with two percent of the U.S. population as a whole.
Left Hand says organizations like the Native American Development Corporation can help people who feel they have been discriminated against or having trouble looking for housing.
Most of all, he encourages people to be persistent.
“I’m always willing to help people out and try to steer them in the right direction and then just give them the hope that there is somebody out there that might have an opportunity to open a door and then they succeed in that area. But then like I tell them, don’t give up so easily.”
This week, California tribal leaders, state lawmakers, and other guests gathered at the Capitol in Sacramento to celebrate the appointment of State Rep. James Ramos (Serrano/Cahuilla/D-CA) to serve as Rules Chair.
Chairman Ramos is the first California Native American to serve as chair of the powerful Assembly Rules Committee. He’s also the first and only California Native American serving in the legislature.
In remarks, Chairman Ramos, who was elected in 2018, reflected on his work alongside Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-CA).
“We began a relationship and understanding the importance of culture of California’s first people, with the issues that face our people from that point on. And then, once I got elected encouraged the Speaker to grant me a legislative caucus. We went to work on MMIW issues, we went to work on foster care issues, on repatriation issues, and many other issues so much so, in the time we’ve been here we’ve successfully moved 22 tribal bills that got signed into law.”
Both Chairman Ramos and Speaker Rendon recounted some painful moments in history Native people faced, included extermination efforts by governments.
Speaker Rendon says the historic appointment should be recognized.
“Our next Rules Chair, when this building was founded would not have had the right to vote, would not have had the right to serve in our body, and to a certain extent could have faced persecution and genocide, could have been a victim of genocide. The extent to which history changes, the extent to which history moves, is something all of us have the agency to be involved in. When we think about history being current, we should appreciate moments such as these.”
A handful of tribal leaders from across the state spoke at the event expressing their gratitude to Chairman Ramos and the need for Native American representation in the state legislature.
Chairman Ramos was appointed Rules Chair in December.
This week, Albert Ian Schweitzer walked free after more than two decades in prison.
A judge in Hawaii dismissed his conviction for the rape and murdered of Dana Ireland, based on new DNA testing that excluded him and co-defendants.
It identified a single unknown male suspect.
Schweitzer, his younger brother, and another man, who’s now deceased, were convicted of the crime.
The Hawaii Innocence Project fought for Schweitzer’s release.
Get National Native News delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up for our newsletter today.