Gun Lake tribe constructs nine homes
By Ryan Lewis
With the completion of a block of nine homes, the Gun Lake tribe has begun bringing its tribal elders home.
An open house March 31 unveiled the homes of “The Settlement,” built in Bradley on a cul-de-sac off 128th Avenue west of 6th Street with nearly $2.5 million in grants.
Tribal housing director Melissa Brown said the homes will first be offered to tribal elders—members older than age 50—who now live throughout west Michigan but may lack the means to live where the tribe has called home for more than a century.
The 400-member tribe has approximately 80 elders.
The tribe, also known as the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band, settled in Bradley in 1838 near Gun Lake. According to the tribe, the tribal settlement was then called the Griswold Mission, overseen by an Episcopal church. The tribe was formally recognized by the federal government Aug. 23, 1999.
“This is exciting,” Brown said of the project’s completion. “We worked hard to get here.”
The bulk of the funding came from 2009 federal stimulus money, through the Native American Housing Block Grant. The Gun Lake Band of Pottawatomie Indians were one of 104 tribes and Alaskan native villages that won grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development nationwide; 327 applied.
The Settlement is the tribe’s first housing project. The two- and three-bedroom homes on 33 acres include some “green” features, such as geothermal heating systems, efficient windows and on-demand water heaters.
To accommodate some needs of the elderly, the homes contain no stairs and have wheelchair-friendly doorframe widths.
Brown said the goal was to make it a community.
“That’s why there are big front porches, so people can gather with each other,” Brown said. “We plan to make sure there are community events, such as trick-or-treating during Halloween.”
Lacking basements, each home has a reinforced room that provides shelter in tornados.
The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs Indian Reservation Road program provided approximately $440,000 to pave the road and for grading, sidewalks, decorative trees and street lights.
The tribe’s environmental specialist, Monte Davis, said that money helped the $2 million in stimulus money go further.
The same program paid $200,000 of the $300,000 used to pave 1 mile of 6th Street in 2008; the Wayland Township and the county paid the remainder. IRR money also paid for work at the US-131 exit near the tribe’s new casino, which opened in February.
The tribe will keep ownership of the homes, and residents will pay rent equal to 30 percent of their income and cover utility bills. The tribe will also pay for maintenance on the homes and plow snow from the road.
Brown said the project had created more than 15 jobs.
She also said the housing committee was in discussions about creating a walking trail in the area, but there were no other projects in development.
Jim DeVries of Rivertown Homes By Design designed the homes and said he was thrilled with how the project turned out.
“I’m glad we can bring the elders home,” he said.
Contact Ryan Lewis at email@example.com or (269) 673-5534.