THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release July 7, 1999
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN DISCUSSION IN FRONT OF GERALDINE BLUE BIRD'S HOUSE Igloo Housing Neighborhood Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota
MR. HAROLD SAULWAY: -- (in progress) -- but we're durable people, have a lot of pride, have a lot of dignity.
THE PRESIDENT: How do you stay warm in the winter?
MR. SAULWAY: Well, we're conditioned. We're conditioned. A lot of buffalo robes. A lot of good, hard work, too. This is how a lot of people live, though. This is about the average conditions of most homes throughout the reservation. And some are really bad yet.
THE PRESIDENT: Would you say the biggest immediate need you have is for better housing?
MR. SAULWAY: Housing, and what new markets is going to do, create jobs. Not enough people working here on Pine Ridge, so that causes a lot of potential impacts.
THE PRESIDENT: If there were jobs in the near vacinity, some sort of small manufacturing or something like that, do you think all the people who could work would do so?
MR. SAULWAY: Yes. We have one of the highest unemployment rates for -- a lot of people going to work, being more responsible with their time would uplift the lives of the entire family in a lot of ways.
THE PRESIDENT: Where is your tribal college?
MR. SAULWAY: Probably about 40 miles northeast of here. Toward the center part of our reservation. Our reservation is about 135 by 84-85, there abouts. A pretty large reservation.
THE PRESIDENT: How close do the jobs have to be in order not to be too burdensome to go to and from work?
MR. SAULWAY: We don't have a transportation system, so most people have to carpool into Pine Ridge. Pine Ridge is kind of like the capital of the reservation, if you will. Most people transporting in and out transit to come to work from IGS and BIA and Tribal Government. That's the greatest portion of employment -- not too much microenterprises for development.
Housing is one of the largest employers on the reservation, but the need is so high that it naturally is one of the higher employment areas.
THE PRESIDENT: Andrew, why don't you just say what we've been talking about, say what you were saying about the housing --
SECRETARY CUOMO: As the President was saying, one of the greatest needs is housing, just provide the basic living conditions where people can improve themselves, and then home ownership. Very little home ownership on the reservation. And home ownership, given the conversation we've had this past week, is really the first access to capital strategy when you think about it, because when you own and you have equity in your home, then you can start to get loans, you can start to get financing and start to get credit to open a business or pay a tuition, whatever you'd like to do.
So our efforts are, first, try to improve as much housing as we can -- we're doing that through the Housing Authority. We've set up a not-for-profit with the reservation for the first time so the tribe can do business as a tribe and also as a not-for-profit organization.
And then home ownership, home ownership, home ownership. The people who are at the conference today, I was telling the President the numbers are up to about 800 people from across the country who come to this housing conference -- 100 tribal presidents. And we have the mainstream home ownership, housing, bankers, who come to the conference. And we're going to start for the first time ever in a big way home ownership on the reservation -- linked to economic development, because it's also an empowerment zone. We're going to sign officially the papers at the next event.
So we have the empowerment zone doing the economic development piece, and housing and the home ownership with the private mortgage market coming forward.
THE PRESIDENT: Frank?
MR. RAINES: Well, we're trying very hard to bring private capital into the reservation. It's been a -- working with this reservation, now signing an agreement with one of our major lenders and with the tribe to cut through a lot of the legal problems that lending -- when you've got trust lands involved. And we think we can make progress there.
We think it's important that in addition to the HUD programs that are so important, that we also get mainstream lenders in the conventional lending here. We've done a fair amount. We've bought about 70 percent of the HUD loans that were made -- Fannie May has financed on this reservation. But we're going to be committing not only to purchase new housing, but $3 million of venture capital funds to encourage production of housing on this reservation. All this is part of a $500 million initiative that Senator Daschle and Senator Johnson and I announced yesterday. That's covering the whole state, but there is a portion that is going to be just here. And we're intentionally keeping it without us saying exactly where it's going to go.
We're going to work with the tribal government to ensure that we can either put it in a multi-family, or single-family, or combinations of housing and retail that will make it possible to bring more and more private capital on to the reservation.
Housing is the one part of the private capital system that is really working in full speed and is available to come into the toughest areas. It's harder to get funding for businesses and things, but we could do for housing.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you something. A lot of the people here you said have more than one family in the home. Now, if they had the choice, would you prefer a single-family home for every family that was more modern, or more modern but larger where you could have -- more than one family could live together, but they'd have enough room to have their own rooms -- which would be preferable?
MR. SAULWAY: Probably single-family homes. Because all the families crunched into one house causes a lot of other --
THE PRESIDENT: -- problems.
MR. SAULWAY: Problems, yes -- social situations.
MS. GERALDINE BLUE BIRD: Mr. President, with regards to that -- my house, the square footage of this is really short for the amount of people that I have here. So with all my kids and my grandkids, when it comes to the living room area here, they're just stepping on them and bumping into them. And my -- Philip is in a wheelchair and he wants to have room. And then I have a stool sitting in the center -- short footage area. And places like this are small.
THE PRESIDENT: How many people live in here with you?
MS. BLUE BIRD: In this house there are 11. And in this house -- between the two houses, there's 28. You met part of them here.
THE PRESIDENT: So you have 11 living in here, and 17 in the other place.
MS. BLUE BIRD: About like that, yes. Because I've got them sleeping in here in the living room. I've got bunks in there. Between these two areas here I have five bedrooms.
THE PRESIDENT: And 28 people sleep?
MS. BLUE BIRD: And I have five bedrooms. So this is what I'm talking about. What you said, with that many people in a small area, that does cause problems. Like here, my own personal opinion is I'd like to see us get jobs, because really to have -- to get one of the homes that are coming up you need to have an income. But right now, we're living on -- well, here on this street I can safely say about 85 percent of us here on this street alone are living on Social Security, SSI, and welfare. That's one income once a month and that's what we use.
My boys, as you have seen, have applied for jobs. They have applications all over. I've even got one boy that went to the service. We've been using his veterans benefits -- it's hard to get a job here because there isn't one. When you get a job here, you hang on to it because you get an income. Money every two weeks is better than money once a month.
MR. SAULWAY: And that causes problems, everybody struggles for those very, very minimum jobs you have. So it causes a lot of conflicts.
THE PRESIDENT: Over the jobs.
MR. SAULWAY: Over the jobs. So few.