Vikki Shoulders has lived on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation her entire life. At 46, she always dreamed of owning her own home, but on the reservation, there weren’t many options. While renting offered many benefits, she knew she was paying for something she would never own.
“I had a good credit score, so I took homeownership and financial literacy classes at Thunder Valley,” said Vikki.
Those classes helped propel her dream of homeownership into reality. She began applying for loans, but said the process was taking too long and she wanted things to move faster.
In 2019 she reached out to Rural Development and said the application went really fast. In 30 days she was approved and contracted with Lakota Cabins and Rental Properties in Kyle to build her home.
Rusty Puckett, who is part owner and a builder with the company, said Vikki and her family were a big part of making their dream home possible.
“The Shoulders put a lot of sweat equity into their home,” said Rusty. “They helped clean up and paint while the house was being built. They did what they could, which helped them save $16,000 in construction costs.”
Rusty also recognized the ease of working with Rural Development. His company helped the Shoulders complete the paperwork needed to apply for the loan and said the Rural Development staff helped make the application go quickly.
Vikki said Rural Development stood beside her the entire time. “I was so overwhelmed, I almost gave up,” said Vikki. “I kept going because of the drive from the staff. They encouraged me to not give up, which was such an inspiration to have them cheering me on.”
Melisa Byrne is the Rural Development Loan Technician who kept the paperwork in order and was there when Vikki and her family took ownership of their beautiful home. “It feels so good to see someone work so hard for their home,” Melissa said. “Housing on the reservation is at a premium, so having another family move into their own home is very rewarding.”
Friends and family also helped make Vikki’s home a reality. The new home site had been an illegal dumping ground for years, so loads of trash needed to be removed before the home could be delivered. Vikki thanks Jeremy Rosales and Johnnette Yellow Hawk’s family for the countless hours spent cleaning the land.
Now Vikki and her family have a new connection with unci maka, or Mother Earth. Her home sits a half mile off the highway and has a beautiful screened in wrap-around deck that provides a quiet view of the land where she can watch the deer and other wildlife. With five bedrooms and three bathrooms, a walk-in pantry, and her dream kitchen, she said Lakota Cabins took extra care to make her home special.
“I have solid oak kitchen cabinets and solid alder wood bathroom vanities,” said Vikki. “I’m proud of what I have. I wake up in the morning and I can’t believe I have my own house. I wish I had done it sooner.”
“We used low maintenance siding, quality flooring and roofing materials, and tile in the bathrooms,” said Rusty. “We wanted to give her a home that will last for years and hold up to the wear and tear of homeownership. She deserves every bit of it.”
Rusty added that high quality insulation is a big part of the house, which helps reduce her energy costs and increases the value of the home.
As Vikki reflects back on her home ownership journey, she has advice for others considering applying for a loan through Rural Development.
“Go for it. Financially prepare yourself. Take a class to learn about your mortgage, escrow, principal and what it all means,” said Vikki. “Your dreams will come true. When I turn on the water or a light switch, I cry with happiness. I know this is all going to belong to my children and grandchildren one day.”
If you are interested in learning more about homeownership opportunities through Rural Development, visit rd.usda.gov/sd.