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Velma's Work
Valiantly Velma - Page 7

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 for themselves.

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.

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