TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — Cherokee citizen Fannie Mae Parris Duffield can now hang her hat in a new home built by the Cherokee Nation in the very spot she lived in 1935.
The 86-year-old former schoolteacher, who also worked a stint with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, signed up last year for the Cherokee Nation New Home Construction Program so that she could return living on her family’s 10-acre lot in Cherokee County.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker gave her keys to the two-bedroom, 800-square-foot brick home on 530 Road on Thursday. She’ll move in the first of the year.
“Words can’t express what it means to be back here in a new home, but here it is,” she said. “When I heard the Cherokee Nation was building homes again, I thought ‘maybe I should apply,’ not sure I would qualify or ever get one. This is such a wonderful program.”
Since Chief Baker began the program in April 2012, in Cherokee County alone 20 new homes are complete and another 22 are under construction. Across the Cherokee Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction, 52 families are in new homes under the program and another 61 homes are currently under construction.
“We started this program with the explicit mission of improving the lives of our people and I am happy to say that is exactly what happened here today,” Chief Baker said. “Good governance and stewardship at the Cherokee Nation means we are able to help more people like Fannie Mae.”
Parris Duffield had lived in Gore and moved to Cherokee County three years ago, staying in a home owned by relatives.
“This is her old home place. How many of our elders lose their land and get to return home, where there are memories?” Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd, of Tahlequah, said. “If we can bring more of that, it’s priceless.”
The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is working with more than 500 Cherokee families that own land to see if they have buildable sites, Executive Director Gary Cooper said. In addition, another three dozen Cherokee families with homes beyond repair received similar replacement homes under Community Services Housing Rehab.
Although construction will slow this winter for both programs, they will speed up again this spring. Since the New Home Construction Program is not funded with NAHASDA grant money, it is not limited to low-income Cherokee citizens. Applicants must only show they have an income level of at least $15,000 per year, and applicants who own land receive preference.
For more information on the New Home Construction Program, call 800-827-2869 or visit http://housing.cherokee.org.
Cherokee Nation builds home for 86 year old.