By mid-morning the wind was howling and blowing the auburn colored sand across Zuni Pueblo located in western New Mexico.
But this was the last thing on the minds of Kay Panteah, Reyanna Nastarcio and Martha Sheche tribal members of Zuni Pueblo. This is the day they celebrate the completion of construction of their new homes—the homes they built with their own hands with the help of family and friends.
At last, this day has finally arrived—after all of those days of hanging drywall, driving nails, and painting walls. After a year of hard work they are being honored by an age-old tradition where their community comes together and celebrates a special feast day. A celebration that includes a blessing of thanks, song and dance by the Zuni Olla Maidens where they rejoice in the ‘homecoming’ for these three women who have worked hard to attain the title of ‘homeowner’ and to create a home for their families.
The three hold a special distinction because they are the first of 12 families who are using USDA Rural Development’s Self-Help Housing and Direct Loan Program to build their homes at Zuni Pueblo. And, this honor is extra special because this is the first project of its kind on Native lands in New Mexico.
During the celebration, the three women stand proudly as they hear the words of congratulations by the government dignitaries, the people of Zuni and most importantly their families.
This celebration was one of many held throughout the nation during National Homeownership Month in June. The highlight of the event came when USDA Rural Development Housing Administrator Tony Hernandez and State Director Terry Brunner presented each of the women with an American flag. After accepting the flags, each realized they have one more thing to do to make their homes complete—attach the flag pole hardware to their homes so they can fly the flag—just in time for the Fourth of July.
But, before they do this last chore, each proudly gave a tour of their new house they now call ‘home.’