By Donna Hales
Muskogee Phoenix Staff Writer
All Rights Reserved
Published in the Muskogee Daily Phoenix
The three-room trailer nestled among the oak and blackjack trees in
rural Delaware County has no running water, the roof leaks and the
family who lives there struggles to make ends meet.
A small Christmas wreath hangs on the front door. A single strand of
tiny Christmas lights twinkle above.
Inside, school papers of 6-year old Matthew Foreman are displayed on a
hall wall. Small nick-knacks sit dust-free on shelves nearby. One of
three beds in the home, a day bed, takes up most of the front room,
which is clean and neat.
Matthew, in remission from leukemia, and his 5-year old sister, Kathy,
tossed their long, shiny hair as they laughed and talked Friday
morning. They're too young to understand the struggle their parents
"My family's lived like that all my life until the last couple of years
when my mother got her house," said Claudine Sixkiller Foreman, 34.
"And my grandmother before her (Polly Blackfox) lived in a home without
Inadequate housing is a widespread problem in the 14 counties of the
Cherokee Nation. Of the more than 190,000 Cherokee Nation tribal
members, about 80,000 live in the 14 counties, according to census
Census information indicates as many as 20 percent of those Cherokee
families living in some rural areas "lack sanitary sewer systems, which
means they don't have running water, and lack kitchen facilities, while
the figure is closer to 12 percent in other areas, said Joe Thompson
director of the Cherokee Nation Housing Authority.
That is why tribal councilor Barbara Starr Scott is furious that
federal dollars to help Cherokees like the Foremans are being spent on
The tribe's Community Development division receives federal grant money
from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development to renovate homes and dig water wells.
Scott visited four homes in need of running water and home repairs
within a five-mile radius near Jay Friday morning. "We could go on all
day," she said.
Many Cherokees living in substandard homes and in poverty have never
been visited by tribal social workers and are unaware of available
programs that would provide better housing, Scott said. Others are on
long waiting lists, which are subject to political pressure, according
to a former tribal Community Development director, Steve Woodall.
"This is the basic -- if you don't have housing -- health care and
everything else is going to go to pot," Scott said.
She stopped her vehicle for a minute after driving across Cloud Creek,
the Foreman family's only source of water. The haul water from the
creek in what was meant to be a big trash can with a lid on it.
Since there is no running water, the bathtub is used for storage. When
it's warm, the family uses an outdoor toilet. In the winter, they just
haul more water to flush an inside toilet.
The family is managing well on what little they have, Scott said. Not
every family has the skills to do as well on so little, she said.
Claudine Foreman's husband, Marvin, has a maintenance job at a chicken
plant in Decatur, Ark. The family trailer is on restricted Indian land
owned by his relatives.
Scott is in the process of seeing about a possible long- term lease on
the land in order for the family to be eligible for tribal help in
getting a well and renovations to their trailer.
Just down the road from the Foreman's lives Vonda Lyman, 31, whose
family's two-room trailer once sat on tribal land where there was a
well. But her husband got a written notice from the tribe to move the
home last February.
They moved, but Lyman still doesn't know why they had to move, she
said. Scott said she will find out why Monday when the tribal complex
The small trailer with its roof falling in now sits on land Vonda
Lyman's stepmother owns. The Lyman's get drinking water from her dad's
nearby home. They haul other water from a creek four miles away in a
large plastic storage tank her father bought. He also bought the family
their $600 trailer.
In a very good month, she said her husband gets to work at least two
weeks at an Arkansas chicken ranch.
She cooks on a heating stove. Her five children, ages 9 months to 9
years, received sleeping bags for Christmas so they could keep warm.
Cold air pours through the sagging bedroom roof.
Sandra and Tony Foreman live nearby in a two-room trailer with no
running water. Rooms consist of a kitchen and one bedroom with a small
room in between that Sandra Foreman said is too cold to sleep in. She
was unaware the tribe had money available for more than a year for
Cherokees to purchase double-wide trailers at low interest rates and
low monthly payments. Her husband, who works at a chicken plant in
Arkansas, might have been interested, she said.
The Phoenix reported earlier this month that HUD said the $200,000
grant was one of three the tribe hadn't utilized, Community Development
Director Bud Squirrel told tribal councilors there was little interest
in the grant.
He said in the December tribal council meeting that Community
Development employees could find only four families interest but needed
10 families in order to purchase 10 trailers at a discount.
Squirrel asked for the funds to be redirected to another Community
A new trailer would be good, "but even just water would help," the
Cherokee mother said.
Jenella and Vance Daniels and daughters ages 2 and 4 live in a
three-room house Jenella's father owns. They have no running water, no
cook stove, a refrigerator that doesn't keep food very cold and
practically no furniture.
The heating stove has no damper and doesn't get warm enough to cook on.
All meals are cooked in an electric skillet.
Daniels brings water home in five-gallon jugs every day when he gets
off work at the Arkansas water company.
The couple showed Scott a Dec. 4 letter from the Cherokee Nation
Housing Authority reminding them to update their application for Indian
Vance Daniels and most of his $240 take-home pay every week from a
water business in Gravete, Ark., goes to pay the electric bill, $100 a
month house payment when he can afford to pay it, his car payment,
repairs needed to keep his car running and to buy tires and insurance
so he can get to work.
"But we're making it here," he said.
Scott shook here head as she left the home.
"If those kids live here and think they're making it they'll never know
what they're missing out on," she said. "They don't know what's
available to them.
"You can't tell me a child raised in this environment has the same
opportunity as my child or yours."
P.O. Box 1968
Muskogee, OK 74402-1968