Native Americans have had a long and tragic history of discrimination over the past few centuries. Through various government acts in the 18th and 19th centuries, Native Americans were relocated time and again away from their traditional lands to reservations, which were often in undesirable locations. Native Americans still face discrimination; however, now the discrimination may be taking place in the areas around their own reservations.
According to a recent news report, a lack of housing on many of the country's reservations has forced Native Americans to search for housing in surrounding areas. However, searching the nearby communities can be even more difficult for many to find housing because of what they claim is racial discrimination.
One of the most famous Native Americans was Sacagawea, a young Shoshone woman who helped the explorers Lewis and Clark find their way west to the Pacific Ocean. Today, many members of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe now call the Wind River Reservation in Central Wyoming home. However, within the confines of the reservation, little housing means many tribal members cannot live on tribal land.
Federal and state laws protect individuals from housing discrimination, including finding rental housing. The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on age, citizenship, ethnicity, gender, race, disability, religion, and sexual orientation.
Ken Hebah is an Eastern Shoshone Tribe member who has been unable to find housing for more than a year. He has been staying with his sister while he continues his housing search. He has a stable job as a nurse, and a solid credit history; however, he says landlords refuse to rent to him.
According to Hebah, the first questions landlords ask are, “‘Do you party, do you drink, do you have a lot of people?' They already assume I'm going to do something like that." Hebah feels like he is being discriminated against because he is a Native American.
According to a study from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), one out of four Native Americans has experienced housing discrimination. However, most never report the discrimination or file formal complaints.
A community relations ombudsman for the county is hosting training sessions to area landlords to inform them of the state's fair housing laws. Jane Juve told the story of a Native American who made an appointment to see an apartment over the phone. However, when she arrived to meet the landlord, the rent had suddenly increased by almost $700.
Lyle Konkol, field director for HUD in Wyoming, says most landlords do not knowingly discriminate, but the effect of their restrictions eliminates many Native American applicants. However, other landlords may be intentionally refusing to rent to Native Americans.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of housing discrimination, it is important to speak out so landlords do not continue violating your human rights. Speak with an experienced housing discrimination attorney who understands your rights and will fight to protect you and your family. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients and their families the justice they deserve.