The Wind River Indian Reservation Housing Crisis

Between ten and 13 members of the Shakespeare family live with Kenneth Shakespeare (center) at his home near Arapaho, WY. He says there's plenty of room.
Credit Melodie Edwards

The two tribes on the Wind River Indian Reservation are growing and prospering: the Northern Arapaho is expected to reach 11,000 this year, the Eastern Shoshone is almost 5,000 strong. But while the number of people has been expanding, the number of homes where all those people can live has not.

Over the last few months, Wyoming Public Radio has been investigating the ramifications of the housing shortage on Wind River, looking at how it has led to overcrowding, homelessness, and racial discrimination in nearby communities. In this series, we’ve also examined financial solutions available to the tribes and talked with people are taking a grassroots approach to helping their neighbors find a safe, dry place to sleep. 

 

Part 1: Overcrowded Lives: The First In A Series On The Reservation Housing Shortage

Part 2: Solutions To The Reservation Housing Shortage Blocked By Many Obstacles

Part 3: On Rural Reservations, Homelessness Less Visible Than Elsewhere

Part 4: Native Renters Struggle With Discrimination In Reservation Border Towns

 

Melodie Edwards

The Housing and Urban Development Office has released a large scale study evaluating the severity of the housing crisis in Indian Country. It’s the most comprehensive research conducted on the subject and the only study of its kind in about 20 years. The study concludes there’s a need for about 68,000 new homes across tribal lands nationwide.

Over the past few months, we’ve been looking at the housing crisis on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The shortage of homes there—and the lack of funding to build more--has led to overcrowding and homelessness. Many Native Americans are often forced to find rentals in border communities off the reservation. Even there they still struggle to find places to live because of racial discrimination.

Melodie Edwards

There’s a housing crisis going on at the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming. For its fast growing population of 15,000 residents, there aren’t nearly enough homes to go around, and very little funding to build more. The problem has led to high rates of homelessness in Fremont County. But on rural reservations like Wind River, homelessness doesn’t look much like it does in big cities.

Melodie Edwards

Overcrowding in homes on the Wind River Reservation is a real problem, as seen in the first story in our “Reservation Housing Shortage” series. In the early 2000s, the number of homes with more than six people living in them grew by 5% for Eastern Shoshone homes and by over 10% for Northern Arapaho. And the reason is, there just aren’t enough houses on the reservation.

Melodie Edwards

The two tribes on the Wind River Indian Reservation are growing and prospering. The Northern Arapaho is expected to reach 11,000 this year, the Eastern Shoshone is almost 5,000 strong. But while the number of people has been expanding, the number of homes where all those people can live has not. The situation has led to severe overcrowding, and the social problems that come with that. 

85-year-old Northern Arapaho elder Kenneth Shakespeare has lived in this house north of Arapaho with its view of the mountains and fertile hayfields for a lot of years.