BROWING — They call it Moccasin Flats, though the street sign marks it as 3rd Avenue Southwest. This neighborhood, just a few blocks away from Browning Elementary School, represents the worst of housing conditions on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.
Empty, weed-filled lots separate the scattered mix of old trailer homes and wood frame houses. To keep the constant Rocky Mountain winds from peeling their roofs away, residents pile discarded tires atop their trailer homes. Boarded windows, missing shingles and torn siding offer poor protection from the frigid Montana winters. Stray dogs rummage through drifts of trash piled against scrap lumber fences.
It’s a Third World neighborhood in America; one seldom seen by the thousands of vacationers who breeze through Browning each summer on their way to Glacier National Park. Yet it’s repeated in hundreds of reservation communities across the U.S.
“It’s not unusual to find a grandma who has 15 people in her home,” said Chancy Kittson, director of the Blackfeet Housing Authority. “Oftentimes they’re all living hand to mouth, out of a soup pot, while at the same time trying to pay for their electricity to keep their house heated.”