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Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan and Indiana

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Title: Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan and Indiana  
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Language: English
Subject: List of federally recognized tribes, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, List of federally recognized tribes by state
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan and Indiana

Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Michigan & Indiana
English, Potawatomi
Christianity Roman Catholic, traditional tribal religion

Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians are a federally recognized Algonquian-speaking Potawatomi-people located in southwestern Michigan and northeastern Indiana. Tribal government functions are located in Dowagiac, Michigan. The tribal membership has grown to approximately 4,563 members as of 2009. They occupy land in a total of ten counties in the area.

The Potawatomi originated as a people along the Atlantic coastline at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. Over centuries, along with the Ojibwe and Odawa Anishinaabe peoples, they migrated west to the Great Lakes region some 500–800 years ago in a "Great Migration."

The Pokagon are descendants of the residents of allied Potawatomi villages that were historically located along the St. Joseph, Paw Paw and Kalamazoo rivers in what are now southwest Michigan and northern Indiana. They were the only Potawatomi band to gain permission from the United States government to remain in Michigan after Indian removal. Many of the cities and streets in the Michigan area have adopted Potawatomi names. The tribe has been federally recognized since 1994 and has established self-government.


The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians were party to 11 treaties with the federal government, with the major land cession being under the 1833 Treaty of Chicago. During the Indian removals, many Potawatomi bands were moved west. But, Chief Leopold Pokagon negotiated to keep his Potawatomi band of 280 people in southwestern Michigan. They were the only Potawatomi band who did not go through removal west of the Mississippi River.

Under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Pokagon Band wanted to restore their self-government and requested recognition as a tribe by the Department of the Interior, but were denied. After years of petitioning, the Pokagon Band regained recognition in 1994.[1][2]


As a federally recognized tribe, the Pokagon Band were able to develop and open in 2007 the Four Winds Casino Resort on the Pokagon Reservation (41°46′38″N 86°42′50″W / 41.77722°N 86.71389°W / 41.77722; -86.71389), in New Buffalo Township, near New Buffalo, Michigan, in accordance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and a compact with Michigan. It expanded in 2011 due to its success.[3] The Chicago Tribune reported that if the casino were on the Las Vegas Strip, it would be the second largest there.[4] Architecturally the casino's rotunda is built in the style of the Potawatomi people's traditional lodges. A second, satellite casino, Four Winds Hartford, opened on August 30, 2011,[5] and a third, Four Winds Dowagiac,[6] opened April 30, 2013.[7][8] The band has been limited to three casinos by its 2008 compact with the state.

The tribe has also built some needed housing. Its newest project will be a community center. In a competition for federal stimulus funds, the Pokagon were granted $2 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to build a planned community center at their tribal center in Dowagiac. The 8500-square foot building has been designed to satisfy Silver LEED standards, and incorporates a number of innovations to reduce its energy use and create a sustainable building: including a green roof, thick concrete flooring to act as a heat sink, windows to the south to gain winter sun and heat, and geothermal systems.

The tribe announced plans in 2012 to build a 164-acre "tribal village" in South Bend, Indiana, including housing, healthcare, and government facilities, and a casino and hotel.[9]

Only a decreasing number of elders among the Potawatomi bands speak the language, but the Pokagon are participating in a program to restore teaching and use of the language.

Tribal government

Tribal Council

Current and former Tribal Council members

  • Matt Wesaw – Chairman
  • Bob Moody – Vice Chairman

Tribal Court

The Tribal Judiciary is a separate and independent branch of the Pokagon Band government. The Tribal Court Judiciary consists of the Chief Judge, one Associate Judge, and three Appellate Court Justices. All members of the Judiciary are appointed by the Tribal Council to serve staggered four (4) year terms.[10]

Current and former Tribal Court Judges/Justices

  • Chief Judge Michael Petoskey
  • Associate Judge David M. Peterson
  • Chief Justice Robert T. Anderson
  • Associate Justice Matthew L.M. Fletcher
  • Associate Justice Jill E. Tompkins

Tribal Police

The Pokagon Tribal Police Department was established in 2003 to provide direct law enforcement services to the tribal members and visitors in the ten-county tribal geographic boundaries in Michigan and Indiana.[11] The Pokagon Tribal Police Department is a full-service police department, servicing all areas within the Tribe's jurisdiction. The Tribal Police are charged with enforcing federal, state, and local laws, including the Pokagon Band Code of Offenses.[12]

Current and former Tribal Police captains

  • Captain Chris VanCompernolle, 2011–present
  • Captain Rachel A. Sedowski-Spiegel, 2008 – 2011
  • Captain Mike Jungel, 2003 – 2008

Gaming Commission

The Tribe established the Pokagon Band Gaming Commission in 2007 as an independent subdivision. The Gaming Commission regulates all gaming conducted within Pokagon Band jurisdiction under the Gaming Regulatory Act, the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and the tribal-state Gaming Compact between the Band and the State of Michigan.[13]

Current and former commissioners

  • Steve DuCharme (Chairman 2007–Present)
  • Thomas R. Russell (Commissioner 2007–Present)
  • Bruce V. Molnar (Vice Chairman 2008–Present)
  • Bobby Siller (Vice Chairman 2007–2008)

See also

Indigenous peoples of North America portal


External links

  • Official website
  • Pokagon Community Center
  • Inter-tribal Council of Michigan
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