American Indian Housing: An Overview of Conditions and Public Policy
C. Matthew Snipp and Alan L. Sorkin
Compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the United States, American Indians are relatively small in number. According to the 1980 Census, 1,423,045 persons reported their race as American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut. 1 Slightly under half (49 percent) of these individuals reside in metropolitan localities while the balance live outside of Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas (SMSAs). 2 About one-fourth live on 278 reservations or in 209 Alaska Native villages. Overall, American Indians and Alaska Natives make up about 0.6 percent of the total U.S. population ( U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1984a).
Despite this small size, the housing of American Indians merits significant attention for other than intrinsic reasons. One is that unlike any other racial or ethnic group in America, American Indians have a special relationship with the federal government. Through treaties, leases, and other kinds of agreements, insuring adequate shelter has been a foremost responsibility of government authorities, although not necessarily well handled ( Utley, 1984). Another reason is that American Indians, as a group, form an important baseline for measuring the well-being of American society. Traditionally, American Indians have been one of the most economically disadvantaged groups in the United States, and observers have repeatedly commented on the dire housing conditions under which Indians live ( Brophy and Aberle, 1966; Levitan and Hetrick, 1971; Sorkin, 1971, 1978; AIPRC, 1977). In this regard, the housing of American Indians stands as a benchmark for judging how well the lowest economic strata of Americans are sheltered.
This chapter has two distinct thrusts. First, it presents empirical data