Secretary of Department of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson visited Polson Monday afternoon where he spoke about helping the Native American population, before taking a tour on Flathead Lake.
“At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, our mission is to ensure that all Americans have access to safe and affordable housing,” Carson told an audience of about 100 people.
Carson spoke at the United Native American Housing Association summer meeting.
The meeting, held a few times a year, is where representatives gather to discuss housing issues, organizers said.
Beginning his discussion just before 3:30 p.m. at Kwa Taq Nuk Resort on U.S. 93, Carson explained that one of HUD’s goals is to ensure low-to-middle income Native American families obtain “healthy” and “affordable” housing that is provided by other HUD programs across the country.
“We serve men, women and children from New York to North Dakota, from Florida to Alaska, of all backgrounds,” he said, adding that there is also “special responsibility” to Native Americans, “who govern themselves on their tribal lands” and preserve their heritage and culture.
Carson relayed that there is a “moral duty” to ensure Native Americans have the same opportunity to prosperity as others.
Unemployment, he said, is “hovering” near 4.4 percent, which is the lowest it has been in the last 10 years and since January, the United States has seen an increase in the workforce by about 1 million jobs.
“And the economy as a whole is doing much better than previous years” which is good for businesses, for employees, and “families who depend on those workers.”
The federal government should respect the self-governing and sovereignty of tribal lands, Carson said.
“Our assistance and cooperation must never be used as an underhanded way to control Native American communities.”
He said that the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act has achieved various goals for tribe members as well as “providing more and better housing,” for the last two decades.
Following Carson’s approximately 20-minute speech, he was provided a boat ride on Flathead Lake at 6 p.m.