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Chickasaw mortgage program looks for second national award

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ADA, Okla. - A groundbreaking mortgage program that has put more than 200 Chickasaw families into homes is up for a second national award.

Chuka Chukmasi, a venture of the Chickasaw Nation along with PMI Mortgage Insurance Co., Fannie Mae, and First Mortgage of Oklahoma, has already received the Social Compact Award, and has now been nominated for the Tribal Governance Awards to be given by the Kennedy School of Government's Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

According to the nation, the Chuka Chukmasi (Beautiful Home) project has provided some $20 million in low down payment home loans to more than 200 families. Started in 1998 in the nation's Oklahoma governance area, it has since been expanded to include Chickasaws nationwide, and has closed loans in a dozen states.

Chuka Chukmasi is one of 16 programs nominated for the Harvard project's fourth annual awards, which will be announced on Nov. 18 in Albuquerque. According to the Harvard Project, the 16 were chosen from 114 applications, representing 61 different tribes. Eight of these programs will win awards and $10,000 prizes.

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The Chickasaw Nation's Division of Housing (Wayne Scribner is the administrator) refers qualified Chickasaws to First Mortgage, which uses mortgage agency Fannie Mae's Internet-based software to allow it to do loans with Chickasaws all over the country. The Washington, D.C.-based Fannie Mae then buys the mortgage from First Mortgage, Oklahoma City. PMI, based in San Francisco, provides mortgage insurance, a Fannie Mae requirement when down payments are less than 20 percent.

The program is the brainchild of Robert Cheadle, currently an attorney in the nation's legislative department but in 1998 the tribe's housing administrator. Cheadle had formerly worked with Fannie Mae on a mortgage deal with the Navajo nation, and saw that the lack of reservations in Oklahoma would make Native mortgages easier to do there, since land issues were less complex.

Programs similar to Chuka Chukmasi have been started on the Choctaw, Citizen Potawatomi, Cherokee and Apache nations in Oklahoma.

Another component of the program is pre-homeownership counseling, coordinated by Kay Perry, Chickasaw director of counseling and loan services. A requirement for Chuka Chukmasi, the counseling is also available to the public at large, and 475 counseling certificates have been awarded through the program.

Other projects up for Harvard awards include the Cherokee National Children's Choir, Gila River Telecommunications, Inc. from the Gila River Indian Community of Arizona, the Kake Circle Peacemaking program run by the Native Village of Kake, Alaska, and the Northwest Intertribal Court System, based on the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation.