Cherokee Nation Helps Ft. Gibson Families Achieve Dreams of Homeownership

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Seven families received keys to their new homes Thursday, as the first beneficiaries of the tribe’s New Home Construction program.

Seven families received keys to their new homes Thursday, as the first beneficiaries of the tribe’s New Home Construction program. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker had the privilege of presenting the families their keys.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am to see these families move into their new homes today. It has been a dream of mine for so many years to see the Cherokee Nation return to building homes for our citizens,” Baker said. “As happy as I am for this day to come, I can assure you no one is happier than these families standing here today. I speak on behalf of all the Cherokee Nation when I say welcome to your new home.”

All seven residences are three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath, brick homes located near Ft. Gibson in Muskogee County.

Mail carrier Erica Leafer, 36, is a Cherokee citizen who had been living with her mother, but is now able to provide her four children a solid foundation of their own. “This is a chance for me to provide a better opportunity for my family,” she said. “It was so exciting, coming out here every week, sometimes twice a week, watching my home being built.”

Hilldale Middle School sixth-grade reading teacher Melissa Patterson, also a Cherokee citizen, is moving from a rented two-bedroom house in Muskogee.

“My family is so excited about this house. It’s the first time my kids have ever had a room of their own,” the 42-year-old mother of three said. “The economy hasn’t been very good. I work two jobs and everything seems to be going higher, except for peoples’ paychecks. The Cherokee Nation has just done incredible things for my family.”

Chief Baker initiated the program immediately after taking office.

“Growing up, I saw the impact the tribe’s mutual help homes had on families I knew,” Baker said. “It built capital, self-esteem and even improved the grades of children in those homes. Our tribal citizens today can still benefit from all those things.”

The program’s goal is to build 300 new homes per year for citizens living in the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction and who earn $15,000 or more per year. Since the program does not use federal funds, there are no low income restrictions. Owners pay a $350 a month mortgage on a 30-year term. Schools in the area also greatly benefit from the home ownership program. Public schools receive $2,800 in federal impact aid for each Indian child in the district living in Indian housing.

More than 950 Cherokee citizens have signed up for the New Home Construction program. Those who already own land will be among the first to have their homes built.

The seven homes in Muskogee County and one built for a tornado victim in Adair County are the first to be completed. The public can take tours of three model homes at 5000 S. Muskogee Ave., in Tahlequah from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday Aug. 31, and Sat. Sept. 1 during the 60th Annual Cherokee National Holiday. For information about the program, visit the housing page under the services link at http://www.cherokee.org, or call 800-837-2869.

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About Cherokee Nation
The Cherokee Nation is the federally-recognized government of the Cherokee people and has inherent sovereign status recognized by treaty and law. The seat of tribal government is the W.W. Keeler Complex near Tahlequah, Okla., the capital of the Cherokee Nation. With more than 300,000 citizens, over 8,000 employees and a variety of tribal enterprises ranging from aerospace and defense contracts to entertainment venues, Cherokee Nation is one of the largest employers in northeastern Oklahoma and the largest tribal nation in the United States.

To learn more, please visit http://www.cherokee.org.

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