One Native American Family, Two Housing Crises

In Oakland, California and Torreon, New Mexico, Julian Brave NoiseCat reports that "[f]or Indigenous people, the crisis of the home is intergenerational."

​At High Country News, Julian Brave NoiseCat profiles the struggle of many members of the same extended family to find and keep somewhere to live in two very different places; Native Americans, he writes, are "this continent's first victims of gentrification."

The piece begins in Oakland with Joseph Waukazoo, who has no place to live, and as an "urban Indian" belongs to "a demographic that has no place in the public imagination." It ends in Torreon, New Mexico, where his ex-wife, his son and their extended family survive in a very different landscape that nonetheless has some of the basic flaws.

"The housing crisis is one of the most-discussed global political, economic and social problems of our time. Yet people like the Waukazoos rarely feature in any of its narratives. The politicians, pundits and professors focused on the urban housing crisis overlook or omit urban Indians. Meanwhile, housing problems on reservations are equally out of the frame. In an era of inequality, the Waukazoos—struggling for visibility, dignity and basic housing security—represent some of the most forgotten of our nation’s forgotten people."

The "death spiral" of rising demand for housing in the Bay Area and the homelessness on rural reservations are both well-documented, but NoiseCat ties them together.

"For Indigenous people, the crisis of the home is intergenerational. This is what scholars, policymakers and even activists too often misunderstand about the housing crisis: Today’s problems do not represent momentary inequities. They are structural constants, deeply rooted in the system. They cut into Indigenous families over generations, not just economic and political cycles."

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Published on Monday, February 5, 2018 in High Country News