Ben Carson, secretary of housing in the Trump administration, visited Polson on Monday afternoon and said there is a “moral duty” to ensure Native Americans have the same opportunity to prosperity as others.
“At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, our mission is to ensure that all Americans have access to safe and affordable housing,” Carson told an audience of about 100 people at the United Native American Housing Association’s summer meeting.
The meeting, held a few times a year, is where representatives gather to discuss housing issues, organizers said.
Beginning his discussion just before 3:30 p.m. at KwaTaqNuk Resort on U.S. 93, Carson explained that one of HUD’s goals is to ensure low-to-middle income Native American families obtain “healthy” and “affordable” housing that is provided by other HUD programs across the country.
“We serve men, women and children from New York to North Dakota, from Florida to Alaska, of all backgrounds,” he said, adding that there is also “special responsibility” to Native Americans, “who govern themselves on their tribal lands” and preserve their heritage and culture.
Painting a bigger picture, Carson shared national statistics, including one showing that homelessness has decreased by 100,000 in the last decade.
Unemployment, he said, is “hovering” near 4.4 percent, which is the lowest it has been in the last 10 years, and since January the United States has seen an increase in the workforce of about 1 million jobs.
“And the economy as a whole is doing much better than previous years” which is good for businesses, for employees, and “families who depend on those workers.”
The federal government should respect the self-governing and sovereignty of tribal lands, Carson said.
“Our assistance and cooperation must never be used as an underhanded way to control Native American communities.”
He said that the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act has achieved various goals for tribal members as well as “providing more and better housing,” for the last two decades.
Following Carson’s approximately 20-minute speech, he took a boat tour on Flathead Lake.
Reporter Ashley Fox can be reached at 406-883-4343 or firstname.lastname@example.org.