Record $1.3 billion in federal funding allocated to Native American housing

(Photo: Architect of the Capitol)


Native American housing programs will have access to a record $1.34 billion in federal funding this year following an appropriations package signed into law earlier his month. 

The appropriations included long-awaited funding increases for the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act (NAHASDA) of 1996 — the first significant increase under that legislation since 2013. Under NAHASDA, the increased funding is expected to bolster programs like the Native American Housing Block Grant Program and the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant Program. 

Altogether, the new allocations represent a $324 million increase in funding compared to FY2023.

“This historic increase in funding will help provide affordable housing for Native communities across the country,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in a statement. “There’s more work to do to address the unique and urgent housing needs of Native communities, but this funding brings the federal government closer to fulfilling our trust responsibilities to them.”

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) echoed the sentiment, having pushed for NAHASDA reauthorization last month, per a report from newspaper the Nevada Current. 

“As we confront a housing shortage and affordability crisis, Tribal communities in Nevada are being hit particularly hard,” Rosen said in a statement. “That’s why I pushed for increasing funding for housing in Tribal communities in the bipartisan government funding package.” 

The news caps off a year of hearings and sometimes heated discussions around a Native housing crisis that far exceeds problems in the rest of the country. Natives experience the second highest rate of homelessness (10%) in the U.S., accounting for approximately 1.5% of North America's population, according to a 2023 report by the National League of Cities.  

Those in homes don’t always fare much better — nearly 16% of Native homes qualify as “overcrowded,” compared to 2.2% nationally, per a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The same report points out that Native families are five times more likely to live in poor conditions, facing issues with their plumbing, heating, and insulation, among others.

Notably, the federal government’s $1.34 billion allocation still falls short of calls for funding by tribal nations and Native housing advocates. 

Recommendations for fiscal 2024 by the Native American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC) included allocating $1.68 billion to the Indian Housing Block Grant Program, for example. Even that number is just a fraction of the $30 billion to $60 billion housing experts told Tribal Business News would be needed to solve the housing crisis in Indian Country.  

With the creation of NAHASDA in 1996, the United States recognized that improving the housing conditions in Indian Country advanced the United States’ fulfillment of its treaty and trust responsibilities to tribal nations, the NAIHC wrote in its recommendations. “However, the continued stagnant investment in these housing programs counteracts the gains provided by NAHASDA.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation, called the gains “particularly important…for traditionally underfunded Indian housing programs.”

“I am very proud of everything that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and I were able to secure in this appropriations package,” Cole said in a statement. “It will always be a priority of mine to ensure that the needs of Native and tribal communities are represented here in Washington, D.C., and I would like to thank Senator Schatz for working with me to secure this essential funding for Native housing programs.”

The Chickasaw Nation celebrates Women’s History Month

2023-2024 Chickasaw Nation Princess Abby Gaines.

Big year ahead for princess Abby Gaines

TISHOMINGO, Okla. – A self-taught artist crowned Chickasaw Princess in October also received top honors in the drawing division of the Southeastern Art Show and Market (SEASAM).

October 2023 will be a lifelong, cherished memory for Abby Gaines.

Gaines, 24, was awarded first place for her piece “Chikasha Ihoo” (Chickasaw Women), which also served as her talent portion for the Chickasaw Annual Meeting and Festival Princess Pageant.

It is a detailed, intricate and beautiful charcoal drawing of three Chickasaw women engaging in a friendly contest of stickball.

It took 30 hours to complete.

The subjects are all her friends. Jeri Underwood and her daughters Brenlee and Jayla were participating in the stickball tournament conducted during May’s Chikasha Ittafama (Chickasaw Reunion).  Gaines knew she wanted to feature three dynamic Chickasaw women playing the game.

“In my mind’s eye, I already had an idea of what I wanted,” Gaines said. “I had taken my camera down to the tournament grounds and began shooting. The photo I eventually used for ‘Chikasha Ihoo’ was one of my favorites.”

“Chikasha Ihoo” is just one of several first place honors Gaines has accepted in art shows beginning in 2021.

“I have only been drawing seriously for about six years,” she said. “During high school, I wasn’t serious about it. I just goofed around drawing portraits of family and friends.”

When she decided to get “serious,” Gaines finished with a first-place award in drawing at the 2021 virtual Artesian Arts Festival.

The drawing was a portrait of fluent Chickasaw language speaker Rose Jefferson, who also served in the princess pageant as “the elder under the arbor” when Gaines was crowned 2023-2024 Chickasaw Princess.

Another first place award came in 2022 with a rendering of Choctaw dancer Okatusha Roberts, a friend of Gaines.

In the 2022 SEASAM competition, Gaines earned another first place award titled “Willie Jack,” the drawing was purchased by the Chickasaw Nation Information Center in Tishomingo and is currently on display.

The charcoal award winner was – from start to finish – “freehand” artistry. However, Gaines also knows how to create beautiful art using computers. A portrait of her grandmother, Zella Gaines, is an example.

“I do like it. I did all the artwork on my iPad,” she explained while looking at the portrait. “I’m not sure how long it took to finish, but it is close to my heart.”

It is in full color, and she credits Bryan Waytula, a Cherokee artist, with being her mentor and advocate.

“Bryan was great. He showed me his talent and gave me pointers on my art. He also encouraged me to work with colored pencils. If it wasn’t for Bryan, I’m not sure I would have ever used color,” Gaines said.

 Waytula’s work “The Grass Dancer” was named Best of Show at 2023 SEASAM. It marks the second year in a row Mr. Waytula has earned Best of Show honors.

Gaines works for the Chickasaw Nation as an administrative assistant in the department of culture and humanities. As such, she assisted Waytula who was instructing young Chickasaws during arts academy festivities that occur throughout the year.

The largest of these is the Chickasaw Nation Arts Academy where all genres of art expression are honed – from painting to performing arts.

As she undertakes her duties as a goodwill ambassador of the Chickasaw Nation, being Chickasaw Princess will become her most important assignment. She believes her artistic efforts will be interrupted, but her optimism is still sharply focused.

“I know I will meet many people and visit many places. I know I will find opportunities and inspiration for my art while serving the Chickasaw people,” she added.

Cherokee Nation Businesses economist joins Federal Reserves’ tribal development leadership council 

Tralynna Scott, Cherokee Nation Businesses chief economist

The Center for Indian Country Development provides actionable data for lawmakers in support of Native prosperity

TULSA, Okla. – The Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis recently appointed Tralynna Scott, Cherokee Nation Businesses chief economist, to its leadership council.

“I’m extremely proud of the work Tralynna undertakes not only to inform Cherokee Nation economic development decisions but also her efforts that reach beyond our tribe,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “The Center for Indian Country Development is a vital resource for national leaders and the creation of strong, sustainable policies.”

The mission of CICD is to support the prosperity of Native nations through actionable research, policy development and community collaboration. This mission aligns with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ pursuit of a growing economy and stable financial system that work for all U.S. citizens.

“I’m honored to represent Cherokee Nation on the leadership council,” Scott said. “Tribal economies are recovering well since the international health crisis and economic turmoil in 2020. It’s more important than ever that legislation and leadership have a solid foundation in actionable data. The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has a great reputation, and I’m thrilled to join its Center for Indian Country Development leadership council.”

Scott formerly served as Cherokee Nation treasurer, overseeing the tribe’s more than $1.5 billion budget. Appointed in 2019, Scott undertook the unprecedented rollout of COVID-19 recovery funds.

In 2021, Scott became Cherokee Nation Businesses’ chief economist, providing economic analysis to guide future growth and investment. CNB generates about $2 billion in revenue with an economic impact of about $3 billion to northeast Oklahoma every year.

CNB is one of northeast Oklahoma’s largest employers and has businesses in all 50 states, 26 countries and two U.S. territories.  

To learn more about CICD and to review its data resources, go to

Choctaw Nation Celebrates National Women's History Month  
Highlights Author and Scholar Clara Sue Kidwell

Dr. Clara Sue Kidwell

DURANT, Okla. - March is National Women's History Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the remarkable contributions of women throughout history. This month, the Choctaw Nation pays tribute to the influential role of Choctaw women in shaping their communities and preserving their cultural heritage.   

The Choctaw Nation has a long-standing tradition of being a matriarchal society, where women have always held positions of respect and power. Through traditional storytelling and art, the importance of women in Choctaw history is portrayed, where they have been recognized as the givers and supporters of life, working alongside men.   

Even in modern times, Choctaw women continue to break barriers and contribute significantly to society, challenging gender norms and stereotypes. One such remarkable woman is Dr. Clara Sue Kidwell, a Native American academic scholar, historian, feminist, and author. Dr. Kidwell's achievements have earned her a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society for Ethnohistory.   

At a time when few Native women held doctoral degrees, Dr. Kidwell established study programs for several universities and served as assistant director in the Research and Cultural Resources department at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.    

Dr. Kidwell was the first to be highlighted in the biography series “Choctaw Culture Keepers.”  The book titled "Dr. Clara Sue Kidwell, Teacher and Mentor" tells the story of a resilient Choctaw tribal member from northeast Oklahoma who became recognized as a national leader in the field of American Indian studies.  

"As we celebrate National Women's History Month, let us honor the contributions of Choctaw women and recognize their invaluable role in shaping our society," said Chief Gary Batton. "Their stories inspire future generations to break barriers and achieve greatness."  

Dr. Kidwell's accomplishments highlight her success and serve as a testament to the strength and resilience of Choctaw women. Her dedication to education and commitment to preserving Choctaw culture has greatly impacted the Native American community.   

For more information about Dr. Clara Sue Kidwell and her Lifetime Achievement Award, visit