Department of Housing and Urban Development programs for Native Americans have been extended to descendents of Cherokee Freedmen who joined that tribe.
The move follows the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma’s enrollment of more than 8,500 descendants of Freedmen as citizens after an amendment of its constitution that established their eligibility. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American to hold that title, ratified the new constitution in May. It followed a recent Cherokee Nation Supreme Court decision in favor of the descendants, based on the findings in a previous federal court case. An 1866 treaty stating that people emancipated by the tribe would “have all the rights of native Cherokees” led to the decision. In the past, some members of the tribe had enslaved Freedmen, and the addition of language requiring tribe members to be related “by blood” in the 1980s had barred them from citizenship.
“Unequivocally, this latest action opens the door to access a wide range of services, including assistance under HUD programs,” Fudge said in a statement released on Oct. 22, commenting on the Freedmen descendents’ official citizenship.
“We need to make the dream of homeownership — and the security and wealth creation that comes with it — a reality for more Americans,” said now-HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge. “That will require us to end discriminatory practices in the housing market." Bloomberg News<br/>
“As we continue to forge a fairer and more equitable America, it is steps like these taken by the Cherokee Nation that set an example of what we can achieve,” she added, urging four other tribal nations in Oklahoma to take similar steps.
Fudge’s statement could indicate greater accessibility for other tribal nations in the state in the future and may be watched closely by other housing and civil rights advocacy groups like the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, which has called for the expansion of the HUD 184 program to include Black Americans. That guarantees 100% of lender outlays for borrowers who qualify for the program.
This is just the most recent example of government officials opening up housing assistance to the descendants of people who faced past civil rights violations. In March of this year, a city council in Evanston, Ill. voted to enact a mortgage reparations program that offers down payment and closing costs funds for Black residents who were impacted by discriminatory policies that prevented their family members from securing a mortgage in certain areas.