An 86-year-old member of the Cherokee Nation is back home again. A plot of land in Tahlequah has been in Fannie Mae Parris Duffield's family for more than seven decades. It's where she grew up. Now, she has a brand new home on that same land.
Fannie Mae has lived all around the country, but now she has a home of her own in Tahlequah, and it's back where her life began. It's a piece of the Cherokee County countryside that floods her mind with memories.
"It was just a dirt, rocky road, very narrow, wasn't wide at all," she said.
She moved onto this land in 1935.
"This was just a rocky hill," Fannie Mae said.
That hill became known as "Hard Times Hill."
"My mother always had to name things and that's what she called it," Fannie Mae said. "I guess she thought that everybody was having a hard time living here."
Fannie Mae showed us a picture that her standing in front of her family. Behind them is the home her father built. That home was right where her red brick home stands today.
"I never dreamed I would come back here and have a home here," Fannie Mae said.
She is the first elder in the Cherokee Nation to get a new home through the tribe's New Home Construction Program. The two-bedroom is 800 square feet.
The tribe says 20 homes have been built since the program started a year and a half ago and another 22 are under construction. The Cherokee Nation hopes to build new homes every year. To qualify, a potential homeowner must make at least $15,000 a year, be a Cherokee citizen, and be able to afford a house payment of at least $350 a month.
The tribe says the program brings stability to its citizens.
"It's security. It's home ownership for less than you can rent any place," said Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker.
An old hickory tree is all that's left standing from Fannie Mae's childhood, and she's thrilled to be able to move home and live, once again, right next to it.
"I never had it in my mind that I would do that and here I am," she said.
Fannie Mae hasn't moved into the home just yet. She's going to wait until after Thanksgiving and hopes to be in it by Christmas.