2008 American Indian Heritage Month Celebration


REMARKS PREPARED FOR
ROY BERNARDI, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
WASHINGTON, DC
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2008

Thank you, Darren (Mohammad). Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you all for coming. And I want to thank the organizing committee for all their hard work.

Each year we honor the contributions of American Indians to our nation. And those contributions have been vast and exceptional...in culture, literature, sports, the sciences, government, business and finance, and the arts...every part of American life. Because of those contributions the United States is better, nobler, stronger, and greater. This month we highlight those achievements. But we are proud of these contributions every day of every month.

And I believe that American Indians will help guide us into the future. As our nation becomes more environmentally aware, more green, we will learn much from American Indian history and philosophy. We will develop a closer relationship to our land and our wildlife, and find new ways to find harmony with the natural world...new ways for us, but old ways for many native people.

As you know, I came here from Syracuse, where the first people to live there were the Haudensaunee - the people of the Longhouse - or the Onondaga Nation as they are known today. They are part of the great Iroquois Confederacy that covered a large part of the Northeast. The city itself began when French missionaries were invited to set up a mission in the 1600s, and, as they say, the rest is history...over four hundred years of history. There is a real sense of pride and partnership between the Onondaga people and the settlers who came and built a great city near the shores of Onondaga Lake. That sense of common heritage and shared destiny is still a big part of the city today. There is a tremendous sense of history, a profound respect for Native American tradition and values.

When I came to HUD eight years ago, one of the most welcome feelings was that same shared pride and partnership in our programs for native peoples. And in my time here that pride as only grown. And I want to commend the work of those in the Office of Native American Programs. Our colleagues there have an important assignment and the work is often challenging. I want to thank them for a job well done. Their work is an important part of our portfolio. The programs we offer are vital, efforts such as

  • The Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant Program (Section 184),
  • The Indian Community Development Block Grant Program,
  • The Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program,
  • The Indian Housing Block Grant Program, and
  • The Title VI Tribal Housing Activities Loan Guarantee Program.

And last year the Native American Home Ownership Opportunity Act of 2007 was signed into law to reauthorize the Section 184 Loan Guarantee Program. That was a good piece of legislation. It enabled Native American families to obtain good, affordable loans for homeownership. The program was created in 1992, and, to date, over 4,500 loans have been guaranteed by this program for a total of $573.1 million. I believe this is a very good program. It has made a difference in the lives of thousands of American Indians, Alaskans Natives, and Native Hawaiians.

We must build on our efforts. As you know, native people face tremendous challenges, both on reservations and elsewhere. We must use every means possible to help provide affordable housing and other services. I am especially mindful of the need to empower Native Americans through homeownership. This remains an important source of financial security and wealth creation.

There is a saying that helps us place the future in perspective, gives notice that we must be good stewards of this world in our time, to protect the heritage of those who come after us. It is an ancient Indian proverb that says "Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children." There is great wisdom in that belief.

Today we find inspiration for our work from the Ron Warren Trio. I want to thank them for joining us. I look forward to the "Woodpecker´┐Żs Gift."

And, again, I want to thank all of you for coming. Please make sure to study the cultural artifacts on display. I know that as you look at them you will see more than history. You will see the present in the past, see a culture that has much to teach us, and eventually you will see yourself and all Americans joined together, intertwined in the threads of common history.

Thank you.

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