Construction Internship Program Prepares Tribal Members for Employment Opportunities

After piloting our Construction Internship Program in the Summer of 2017 on the Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge Reservations, the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition continued to work with partner organizations in these tribal communities to build on the successful pilot and solidify and strengthen the program during the Summer of 2018.

During our second year, the Coalition worked with more contractors and interns, and a significantly higher percentage of interns completed the program. In 2017, 23 students started the program, with 11 students completing (48%). In 2018, 33 students began the program, with 26 students completing (78%).  The 2018 program outcomes were compiled into a report that also includes intern success stories.

Download Report

In planning for the future, the Coalition plans to focus on the following:

Continue to offer internship on Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge.

The Coalition has developed strong partnerships on Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge, with a core of participating contractors in each community.  Looking to the future, the Coalitions plans to continue to offer the internship in these communities.

Expand to additional tribal communities in South Dakota.

A number of additional tribes have expressed interest in the internship, and the Coalition plans to reach out to potential sites and identify new sites by early 2019.

Pilot an administrative/financial management internship.

This internship could build the capacity of contractors, while providing valuable experience for business and financial management students.

Coalition Working on Multiple Fronts to Support Native Construction Industry

Recognizing that the lack of housing stock is a real barrier to homeownership in Native communities, the Coalition is working hard to support local contractors and encourage them to build more homes.  We are excited about developing the following programming to support our Native construction industry:

Construction Internship Pilot Program – Summer 2017

After hearing from contractors that finding employment-ready workers is a challenge, in summer 2017, the Coalition launched a pilot internship program to place building trades students from Oglala Lakota College with local contractors.  Through the program, students on the Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River Reservations gained valuable hands-on construction experience, while contractors had the chance to test out potential employees in a risk-free setting.  The program was managed by our Native CDFI partners – Four Bands Community Fund on Cheyenne River and Lakota Funds on Pine Ridge – who also provided financial education classes to participants.  Based on input from interns, contractors, and partners, the program was a huge success; of the 11 students who completed the internship, 9 received job offers from their contractors.

Building on this success, we plan to expand to additional tribal communities in summer 2018.  To learn more about the construction internship program, click below to download your copy of the program report.

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Contractor Workshop – Jan 31, 2018 – Rapid City

In January 2018, the Coalition’s Veterans Committee organized a one-day workshop for contractors focused on how to work with loan products available for building on trust land.   With over 65 participants and contractors from around the state, the workshop was very well attended, and feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

According to one contractor:

“It was a great turnout.  A lot of beneficial information provided and networking.”

The day’s agenda included contractor and lender perspectives on working with the HUD 184 loan, information on the VA’s Native American Direct Loan (NADL) and USDA’s 502 loan, resources provided by Native CDFIs, and recognition of the summer 2017 interns and contractors.


Inspector Certification Training – February 27-March 2, 2018 – Rapid City

Understanding that the shortage of certified building inspectors can delay the construction process, the Coalition is also working to increase the number of certified inspectors working in tribal communities. Our goal is to have at least one certified inspector on each reservation in South Dakota. This winter, we held an intensive four-day training to prepare participants for the inspector certification exam, with the actual exam administered on the fourth day of the training. Thirty-one participants attended the training, a combination of independent contractors and housing authority staff. The training was conducted by the International Code Council (ICC), who sent their top instructors to work with our Coalition participants.  Feedback about the training was extremely positive; in the words of one participant, “the training was extremely helpful and I appreciate the opportunity to participate.”  Another participant stated, “I liked the training – best one I have been at.” Recognizing the value of building codes in providing safety standards, a number of participants have requested support to promote the adoption of building codes in their tribal communities.

Coalition Members Visit Cheyenne River to Learn About Homeownership Efforts

On June 29, 2016, over fifty members of the SD Native Homeownership Coalition visited the Cheyenne River Reservation, the Coalition’s third annual visit to a tribal community. In 2014, Coalition members visited the Pine Ridge Reservation and in 2015, members visited the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. Coalition partners on the Cheyenne River tour/convening represented TDHEs, Native and non-Native nonprofit organizations, Native and non-Native CDFIs, federal partners (including USDA, HUD, and the VA), and state partners (including the SD Housing Development Authority and the Department of Tribal Relations).

The day started in Mobridge, with an opening prayer, welcome remarks by Sharon Vogel, the Executive Director of the Cheyenne River Housing Authority, introductions, and milestone updates from the Coalition’s different committees. From Mobridge, Coalition members traveled by bus to Eagle Butte, a two-hour trip. On the way, partners saw a diverse mixture of homeownership homes that ranged from CRHA Mutual Help homes to mortgage loan financing (VA, USDA, HUD-ONAP 184), and visited the White Horse community. The bus trip provided the opportunity for Coalition members to visit with one another, see the remote and isolated nature of Cheyenne River communities, and gain an understanding of the pros and cons of these locations.

In Eagle Butte, Coalition partners visited the impressive hospital staff quarters neighborhood, and saw the 160 acre Badger Park site that the Housing Authority is developing. With infrastructure in place, including utility service lines, curbs, gutters, and road, the Housing Authority is scheduled to start having homes go up within the year. Coalition members were impressed by the site, and are looking forward to a return visit to see completed homes.

After visiting the Badger Park site, Coalition members convened for lunch, with remarks by Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier and Bush Fellow Eileen Briggs. Lunch included a birthday cake to celebrate the third birthday of the Coalition – the group’s first convening was held on June 27, 2016 in Pierre! Following lunch, Coalition members convened at the Oglala Lakota College/Cheyenne River College Center for a series of afternoon discussions. After a welcome by Dave West, Jr., the Center Director, Taffy Lafferty and Sharon Vogel shared the preliminary results of their organizations’ housing needs assessments, which are being facilitated by the Coalition and supported by the SD Housing Development Authority. Coalition members then met with three homeowners to learn about some of the challenges they encountered, and then Sharon reviewed the key steps to homeownership.

Overall, it was a packed day, and participants reported that they were very impressed by the work of the Cheyenne River Housing Authority, and appreciated “covering the reservation where the action is.”

Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe Showcases Successful Models to Increase Native American Homeownership

Approximately 100 federal and state agencies, tribal entities, policy makers, lenders, tribal enterprises, and nonprofit organizations gathered at Sisseton Wahpeton College to discuss homeownership as a solution to the long-standing housing shortages that Indian reservations face. While homeownership in mainstream America has become a greater challenge following the mortgage crisis in 2008, it has always been perceived as an elusive dream for those that reside on Indian reservations.

During her video address in the welcoming remarks of the event, Senator Heidi Hietkamp acknowledged these challenges and commended the Coalition for its work.

Although achieving homeownership on a reservation is a complex puzzle, it is not impossible. Groups like the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition that facilitated the Sisseton convening are working to put the pieces together. The meeting focused on the successful homeownership efforts of T Yamni Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and provided models for other reservation communities to follow.

T Yamni regularly works with over 20 partner organizations to help make homeownership possible for tribal members. The organization is considered a leader in the Native homeownership field, and has help many tribal members navigate the path toward homeownership. As part of the convening, attendees toured the recently completed Long Hollow subdivision that is comprised of approximately 10 single-family homes.

Convening attendees engaged in dynamic and solution-oriented dialogue on potential ways to remove barriers to homeownership. Solutions discussed included:

  • Risk Mitigation Partnership: To encourage more lending and investment from financial institutions, a pool of funds would be created by the tribe. Funds would be used to purchase a home in the event that it should go into foreclosure. This would essentially be a loan guarantee program established by the tribe, and it would also ensure that homes on tribal land stay within tribal membership.
  • Land Bank Inventory: To streamline the lease process, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate is developing a plan to inventory all trust land on the reservation. This would provide them with the ability to easily identify areas or parcels that would be available as home sites, rather than going through such a long and arduous process for each individual homeowner.

Coalition Hosts Meetings with Contractors to Foster Increased Building

On March 10 and June 3, 2015 the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition met with contractors on the Pine Ridge Reservation to explore how to support contractors’ efforts to build more homes.  Suggested tools and strategies from these meetings included:

  • providing sample construction contracts and agreements
  • developing model building codes
  • looking into conducting an inspector certification training
  • mapping out the construction process for potential homebuyers

At the June 3 meeting, Juel Burnette of 1st Tribal Lending also shared information on HUD/ONAP contractor “validation” requirements.

Coalition Sponsors “Residential Construction Roundtable”

The South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition sponsored a residential construction roundtable in Rapid City to look at how the Coalition can support contractors’ efforts to build more homes for Native homebuyers. Over 20 participants attended the productive session, sharing challenges and strategies.