Housing Vision Comes Full Circle 

Tribal Consultation with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

On May 29, 2024, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP) Tribal Council welcomed U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) for Public and Indian Housing, Richard Monocchio, to The Pine Creek Indian Reservation.

With other top Federal officials from the U.S. HUD Department Office of Native American Programs Eastern/Woodlands Regional Office, Monocchio was on-site for a Tribal Consultation visit. During this meeting, Monocchio met with members of the NHBP Tribal Council, NHBP Housing Director Benjamin Tenney and NHBP Chief Planning Officer Dan Green to discuss a key issue for tribes across the Nation: Affordable housing.

In her opening remarks, NHBP Tribal Council Chairperson Dorie Rios discussed the visit’s historical significance. She acknowledged and honored the work and contributions of two Tribal Elders, Gordon Bush-bën and Ruth Ann Chivis-bën, who have since passed but who were crucial in advancing the Tribe’s Housing over the decades.

Rios highlighted how consultation opportunities, such as this one with federal officials, have not always been available to NHBP and spoke of Bush-bën’s early work.

Just one example of Bush-bën’s dedication to his Tribe can be found in 1978. Looking at a dilapidated Reservation, a fierce and tenacious 31-year-old Bush-bën fought for the needs of the Tribe and its Members, eventually suing the governor of Michigan at the time for $1 million in damages and $1.3 million in rehabilitation due to the state’s lack of care for The Reservation land it held in trust. (Bradley, 2022)

Rios drew attention to a statement featured in the November 19, 1978, issue of the Battle Creek Enquirer, in which Bush-bën was reported to express his anticipation for The Reservation’s future. “At the reservation itself, he hopes state aid in general rehabilitation will allow Potawatomis to start their own businesses there and make a better adjustment to life in the final quarter of the 20th Century. ‘You’re going to see a new Huron Potawatomi,’ Bush predicted. ‘You’re going to see a people that are self-sufficient.’ (Bradley, 2022)

Chivis-bën was equally dedicated throughout the years. In the late 1990s, she drafted the grant proposal and housing plan that awarded the Tribe its first $1 million U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant.

“These two individuals spent their professional careers and personal lives fighting over and over again just to get our seat at the table and to relay how important it is to provide safe, affordable housing for our people here on The Reservation,” said Rios.

Since NHBP became a federally recognized sovereign Nation and through leveraging funds made available through the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) of 1996, many of our departments and Tribal Members have collaborated to carry Bush-bën’s and Chivis-bën’s work and visions forward to construct and maintain Housing.

Rios shared a piece of Tribal Elder wisdom she received during her days as a Community Health Representative: “Everything comes full circle. Everything happens for a reason, and in particular, when you see a Turtle high up on its haunches, we’ve come full circle, and it’s a good day.

“I didn’t necessarily know what that meant at the time, and I didn’t know if I was going to see a Turtle. But this morning, I saw a Turtle in the next-door neighbor’s driveway, and it was high up on its haunches….. And so, I know again that today, we’ve come full circle.”

What began as a request to be heard and a plea for a seat at the table with government officials has now resulted in opportunities to make our voices heard.

Tribal Consultation

“Within the last year, I have had the honor and privilege to visit Tribal communities from across the country,” said Monocchio. “The level of commitment you have to your communities is something that we can all learn from.”

The Tribal Consultation process is a commitment from the Federal Government to open communications and build relationships within Tribal Communities. This meeting serves as an opportunity for NHBP leaders to share what needs to be improved, what’s not working and what the impacts of grant funding are.

NHBP Tribal leaders shared their perspectives on areas of improvement, including:

  • Overcoming Funding Hurdles for Tribal Housing – Understanding IHS and HUD Regulations: Due to restrictions on linking Indian Health Service (IHS) infrastructure funds with HUD funds and IHS’s exclusion from collaboration under NAHASDA, NHBP must seek alternative or additional funding for housing projects on The Reservation and other tribal properties.
  • Tribal Members often feel penalized by HUD Home loan income requirements, as these thresholds can disqualify them from programs, despite only modestly surpassing them due to bureaucratic income criteria.
  • The lengthy and complex process of addressing HUD challenges, such as correcting tribal enrollment numbers, results in lost funding, due to slow processing and underreporting issues, compounded by poor communication among federal agencies.
  • Established in 1992, the Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program aims to boost homeownership among Native populations by providing lender guarantees on mortgages for American Indian and Alaska Native families, facilitating purchases and constructions both on and off Native lands, and calling for expanded lender participation.
  • Software incompatibilities can cause problems in emergency preparedness, especially with weather alert sirens. Issues with system-wide jurisdictions and software compatibility between counties make it challenging to provide the best information to Tribal Members.

This consultation also allowed Monocchio to share how the Biden-Harris Administration is actively addressing these affordable housing challenges and improving HUD programs to support families better.

Monocchio’s advice, “Advocate as much as you can! I’ve read some of your Tribe’s history. Your brave Ancestors had to fight for everything, just like you continue to fight for your people. It is important that we don’t just talk, that we actually do something, as well.” 

During the visit, HUD also made a special announcement: They would allocate $150 million towards affordable housing and new construction in communities across the U.S. This grant money will be in addition to the Biden-Harris Administration’s $1.1 billion in funding for Native American housing grants.

In 2016, Congress commissioned a report showing a shortage of 68,000 housing units throughout Indian Country. Within Michigan’s 12 federally recognized tribes, there was a shortage of 9,500 units, including 520 households at The Pine Creek Indian Reservation alone. Congress is looking to leverage this new funding to build more units across Indian Country.

To wrap up the visit, federal officials toured The Pine Creek Indian Reservation and the Widokwtadwen Development, the latest housing development funded through HUD’s Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) Competitive Grant Program. 

Since 1997, NHBP has built 37 homes with help from funding received through NAHAASDA programs. Four homes were completed in early 2024 on Widokwtadwen, and four additional homes are scheduled for construction in mid-2024. This brings the total to 41 units constructed at The Pine Creek Indian Reservation and other local Tribal-owned properties.

NHBP typically receives about $400,000 in NAHASDA funding each year, but that number has increased to nearly $1 million in 2024.

“We are so happy and beyond blessed for this visit today. This isn’t just a simple visit; I strongly believe that our Ancestors are sitting here with us and celebrating,” said Rios.

Tribal Members interested in learning more about the housing program services available through NHBP, should reach out to Housing Director Ben Tenney at 269.704.8363 or benjamin.tenney@nhbp-nsn.gov.

To view more photos from this event, click HERE.


  1. Bradley J. (Summer 2022) Breaking New Ground, NHBP Turtle Press


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