New study examines the housing experiences of urban Indigenous people
An Indigenous professor is conducting a national study to learn more about the housing experiences of millions of American Indian and Alaska Native people living in urban areas.
“Often when we talk about Indigenous people in America specifically, we think that Indigenous people only exist on reservations,” said Sofia Locklear, the le ad researcher and an associate professor at Western University in Canada who is a member of the Lumbee tribe . “It isn't about an either/or, like reservation-based versus urban-based. It's about coming to understand both of those experiences together.”
There is little research on the housing experiences of American Indian and Alaska Native people in urban areas. There's even disagreement on whether more live in urban or rural areas. The Indian Health Service says that about 70% of AIAN people live in urban areas while the First Nations Development Institute reports that a majority live in rural areas or on their tribal lands.
“There's really almost no sociological research on the housing experiences of urban Indigenous people. It's quite sparse and that's a problem,” she said. “To have a relocation of funds , or the allocation of funds , is reliant on data. It helps in the allocation of resources and data also informs policy.”
Anyone who is American Indian or Alaska Native and lives in or near an urban area in the U.S. can join. First, particip ants con sent to bei ng inter viewed by fil ling out a Google form . The n, they meet with Lock lear over Zoom to discuss their experiences liv ing in urban a reas as an I ndig enous pers on. T he in terview con sists of questions about housing type, condition and experiences finding housing. Participants, who remain anonymous, receive compensation for their time and will see the results before they are available to the public.
“Whether it's just living in the city to come to school, whether it's being born and raised in a city, most Indigenous people will probably experience that kind of urban housing experience at some point,” Locklear said.
Locklear's research is funded in part by a grant from the University of Michigan's Research for Indigenous Social Action and Equity Center, or RISE. She launched the study two months ago , h oping to find 50 participants. Since then, she’s received nearly 800 responses from Indigenous people.
“That signals that people want to talk about this,” she said. “You know, I'm getting emails, people saying, 'I really want to tell you my story about trying to find housing.'”
While there are no concrete results yet, Locklear said responses reflect the country’s colonialism and racism toward Indigenous people.
“Everybody I've talked to sure has so far had some hard things happen in their experiences of finding housing, but they also are really brilliant at navigating that,” she said.
Locklear believes the data could help provide equity for Indigenous people when it comes to housing.
“Housing is a human right,” she said. “When we figure out how to provide housing and human rights for everybody, that creates a better collective and healthier society.”
Anyone interested in participating in the study can fill out this Google form or contact Sofia Locklear directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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