Crow Creek Tribal Member Realizes Homeownership Dream

On January 5, 2016, Airryn Big Eagle (Crow Creek Sioux) purchased a home after saving for two years through Hunkpati Investments’ matched savings program. As a Native community development financial institution and a member of the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition, Hunkpati Investments’ matched savings program, also known as an Individual Development Account (IDA) program, enables tribal members to build assets through homeownership, secondary education, or business development. By participating in this program Airryn Big Eagle was able to receive $8.00 for every dollar she deposited into a special savings account.

Airryn says, “I always dreamed of owning my very own vehicle, my own business, and having a home to call my own. As a young Native American woman, I never thought that I would have any of those things. I believed that all of the above was nothing but a dream, and that’s all it would ever be.”

Airryn began working with Hunkpati Investments in 2012 to build her personal financial skills, improve her credit, and start her own business. She enrolled in the matched savings program in July of 2013 and discovered homeownership might be a possibility for her. She says, “I could not get the idea of becoming a homeowner out of my head. It had always been a dream of mine.”

Airryn took the homeownership preparedness course that Hunkpati offered, and learned about all of the expenses and steps she would need to take in order to make her dream come true. She looked into several financing options and ended up choosing the USDA Rural Development loan. She comments on the moment she found out she was approved for her loan, “I cried like a baby. I was worthy of a home loan!”

After a long commitment to saving and much research, Airryn was able to use the funds from her Individual Development Account as a down payment for a home within her budget. She went through the necessary steps to close the loan, and is now a proud homeowner.

Read Airryn’s Testimony

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.