V.I.S.T.A. - Volunteers in
service to America
Vista (Volunteers in
Service to American) young people were being placed with Velma to help
with whatever project the tribe was now opening up. At the moment the
first building of new houses was a topic all the people on the reservation
could talk about.
“Are they going to take our
land and give us these houses?” Some asked.
“No!” Velma was diplomatic
but firm. “No! You are going to work for them. Hours will be assigned to
you so you can use sweat equity for a down payment. The house payments
will be adjusted to your income. You will have to pay for them or give
them back. It has nothing to do with your land other than you can put one
on it, if you wish.”
Velma’s tribal members were
too polite to openly oppose the idea but they were talking, plenty. When
the time came for the aging, contractor and his wife to begin work on the
first house, no Indian people showed up. They simply did not believe they
were going to get new houses and no trust in promises of new houses could
be found among tribal members. The contractor was a hard-working
individual who seemed to have a deep conviction for what he was doing. He
didn’t let the lack of interest cause him to stop his work.
The first houses were small
frame structures and had to have foundations dug. This idea was met with a
cool reception even from Velma’s friends and they made it obvious by their
actions that they had no faith they would have new homes in which to live.
“I’m calling Ikee. She will
help, I know she will.” Velma was thinking about her old, loyal friend.
“Ikee! We need help to get
those houses started. I can’t seem to get anyone interested. The
contractor is here to put the first house up but we have to dig
foundations. Volunteers are needed. None understand about sweat equity and
won’t believe that housing is on its way. I’ll make a big pot of soup if
you will make fry bread. That always draws a crowd.”
Ikee and Velma had been
friends since they were girls. The time they spent together was special
because they had so much fun when they were young. The two women were no
longer girls but the tie was still there. Ikee had not lost her spirit
which was tied in with the thinking of their ancestors who had survived
more difficult circumstances than this.
“Do it, then talk about
it,” was their saying.
So began the work with Lee,
Velma, Ikee, her husband, LeClair, the contractor and his wife digging the
foundations. Some curious ones stopped in for the bread and soup and they
were enlisted, too. Of course, the Vista kids worked in a willing way. The
dirt of the ground could be seen in Velma’s bathtub at night where they
bathed. This new house on the reservation was small and required only a
manageable foundation. Their task was soon finished.
As soon as the first house
was being completed there was a wave of interest and it was apparent that
maybe, after all, it was true. New homes, were coming onto the
reservation. Instead of the negative attitudes a brighter future was
suddenly visible to the people. This house, now finished, was what pushed
for more participants to sign up with H.U.D. so they could build a house
Not to be put off by
someone’s rude inquisitive way when they asked, “Are you going to get one
of those Indian houses?”
“I don’t know, depends on
what tribe they are!” A witty response let people know the homes were not
of any race.