Pictured left to right: Council Members of Ponca Tribe Business Committee, members Scotty Simpson Jr., Matilda De La Garza, Secretary/Treasurer Carla Carney, Vice-Chairman Robert Collins, member Leota White, Project Manager Brenton Carney, and President Redhawk Construction Kathy Martin. (Photo by Sara Bell)
The Ponca Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma is preparing for the construction of a new tiny house village that they hope will help prevent, prepare and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The village will offer five tiny homes to provide housing for tribal elders who are struggling with homelessness, displacement and are at a higher risk for COVID-19. Many tribal members live with other family members. They often move around from one house to another. This is a cultural practice and often not recognized as homelessness. The tiny homes will help reduce overcrowding, thus preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Tribal Chairman Oliver Littlecook shared his excitement, describing the project as “an ode to legacy.”
“Ponca people have always honored our elders for their wisdom and teachings. It is said that a nation that honors its elders will live forever.”
Each tiny house will be less than 900 square feet, complete with a kitchen, dining area, bedroom, living room, bathroom with special safety features such as grab bars and walk-in showers and an outside patio. The tiny house village will reside within a gated area, and village residents will have access to a walking trail complete with picnic areas. The tiny houses will host energy-saving features and completely tiled flooring.
Tribal Administrator Sara Buffalo Head-Bell believes this project presents a sort of homecoming and sees the first five homes as a start of a larger ambition.
“There is power and healing when we gather together. The Tiny House Village Project will allow for some of our elders who reside outside of White Eagle to be able to come home and reconnect with the community.”
The Ponca Tribe began responding to the Coronavirus pandemic on January 22, 2020. Community members were worried about the effects of the virus and many started to prepare by purchasing hand sanitizer and a surplus of food, toilet paper and cleaning supplies. This put a strain on many tribal members’ budgets, and the Ponca Tribe Business Committee members started to receive requests for assistance. The Business Committee responded by giving over $34,000 in assistance for food, rent and utility payments in a four-month span.
This project will be managed by Brenton Carney, Project Manager for the Ponca Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma. Carney is currently managing the ICDBG Wellness Renovation and Expansion Project. He has a Master of Science in Management and is currently working on his Doctorate in Business Administration with an emphasis in Project Management. Mr. Carney has over 20 years of construction experience in the oil and gas industry with eight years in a management capacity.
The Tiny House Village will be located inside the gated Walking Trails behind the newly renovated Wellness Center. The Tiny House Village initiative is part of the federal government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) – CARES FY 2020 with a completion date of September 1, 2021.