More than 8,000 Cherokee Nation citizens living in four Arkansas counties now have a new option available for homeownership.
A mortgage program designed specifically for American Indian families has been expanded to qualifying residents of Benton, Crawford, Sebastian and Washington counties in Arkansas. It’s been in talks for some time, but we have successfully lobbied the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to open its Section 184 Home Loan Guarantee Program into our neighboring state. Our Cherokee Nation citizens living in these four counties have a unique opportunity that was not open to them in the past.
We believe this will be life changing for many Cherokee families. We have seen the impact of this program for our citizens across northeast Oklahoma and other tribal citizens across the rest of the United States. As more Cherokee families achieve their dreams of becoming homeowners, it makes a stronger foundation for our tribe’s future success.
Creating pathways to achieve safe and affordable housing for Cherokee Nation citizens has been a consistent priority in my tenure as principal chief. A positive legacy has been established over the past eight years by expanding our own tribal Housing Authority and through partnerships with federal programs such as the Section 184 loan program.
Cherokee Nation’s presence and cultural influence in northwest Arkansas are well documented. Various Trail of Tears routes passed through western Arkansas communities, including the historic Pea Ridge National Military Park, Evansville, Fayetteville, Van Buren and Fort Smith. Some of the earliest Cherokees to relocate from the Old Cherokee Nation – those citizens who came west before removal – initially settled in northwest Arkansas prior to being pushed into Indian Territory.
Our government provides many services to Cherokees in Arkansas, including health care and education. In 2017, more than 2,600 Cherokees who are Arkansas residents were seen as patients in Cherokee Nation’s health system. Cherokee Nation Education Services has provided 889 scholarships to Cherokees in Arkansas since 2014.
Many Cherokee Nation citizens are currently enrolled in the University of Arkansas. We even have quite a few who commute to work for the Cherokee Nation at our health facilities or our tribal businesses in Oklahoma. We know that Arkansas is home to many Cherokee Nation citizens, and we are proud to have worked to open this federal program, which will provide a service to benefit those citizens.
You can find out more about the federal Section 184 Home Loan Guarantee Program at https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/public_indian_housing/ih/homeownership/184. To learn more about tribal programs available through the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation, please visit www.hacn.org.
Bill John Baker is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.