As a Housing and Tribal Leader
(Deceased – February 18, 2017)
With his quintessential greeting “I welcome you with a warm handshake,” Paul Iron Cloud was one of the best and most respected tribal leaders in the country. In the 1980’s Paul engaged himself with local Pine Ridge Reservation housing issues as an Oglala Sioux Tribal Councilman, Fifth Member and Tribal President. He also became a leader on the national level, heading the successful 1 995 Campaign to Save Indian Programs. For the past three decade, Paul has been a powerful advocate for Indian housing in Washington D.C. He testified many times before Congress and was a fixture in Washington lobbying federal officials for improvements in Indian housing programs. Paul continued this leadership, up through last week, when he took what turned out to be his last advocacy trip to Washington D.C. while battling personal health issues at the time.
While Paul Iron Cloud advocated nationally, he was also the Executive Director of Oglala Sioux Housing Authority. Then, after an absence a few years ago, he returned to those duties, and this time as the C.E.O. of Oglala Sioux (Lakota) Housing; a successor entity. This legendary program was the first Indian housing authority in the country, dating back to 1 961. Paul also effectively served on the National American Indian Housing Council and the United Nations American Housing Association Boards, and when elected, as Chairman of UNAHA, he helped develop that organization into one of the most successful and engaged regional Indian housing associations in the country.
While being a fierce and respected advocate for low-income, Indian housing, and federal treaty and trust responsibilities, Paul engineered and implemented a dramatic rescue of the housing program at Pine Ridge, in South Dakota. He returned to the program with the support of his Tribal Council and Tribal President, reforming the Housing Authority and saving its funding. This restructuring (now, over ten years ago), included an innovative plan to replace an overly politicized nine member housing board with a three member board, establishment of a strong and empowered C.E.O., and recruitment and retention of professional staff members. The impact of these and other changes was very successful, and the Oglala program was almost immediately turned around. Paul Iron Cloud, not only saved federal funding for his tribe, but he also leveraged that funding with new moneys, producing new housing and services that were badly needed on the reservation.
Paul Iron Cloud passed away on February 18, 2017, after serving many decades as a unique and successful tribal leader and one of the best housing advocates for needy tribal members in the country.