Each Indigenous nation has its own creation story. Some stories tell that the Potawatomi have always been here. Other stories tell of migration from the Eastern seaboard with the Ojibwe and Odawa Nations. The three tribes loosely organized as the Three Fires Confederacy, with each serving an important role. The Ojibwe were said to be the Keepers of Tradition. The Odawa were known as the Keepers of the Trade. The Potawatomi were known as the Keepers of the Fire. Later, the Potawatomi migrated from north of Lakes Huron and Superior to the shores of the Mitchigami or Great Lake. This location - in what is now Wisconsin, southern Michigan, northern Indiana, and northern Illinois - is where European explorers in the early 17th century first encountered the Potawatomi; who called themselves Neshnabek, meaning the original or true people.
As the United States frontier border moved west, boundary arguments and land cessions became a way of life for Native Americans. In 1830, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act and directed that all American Indians be relocated to lands west of the Mississippi River, leaving the Great Lakes region open to further non-Indian development.
A small group of Neshnabek, with Leopold Pokagon as one of their leaders, secured recognition to remain in Michigan in part because they had demonstrated a strong attachment to Catholicism. It is the descendants of this small group who constitute the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.
Pokagon Band citizens take great pride in the enormous strides of the Band to further economic development, to develop tribal infrastructure, resources, and to improve healthcare, housing, education, and Elders services to its citizens. In addition, the Pokagon Band has made it a priority to develop language and cultural programs for its citizens through its Department of Language and Culture in an effort to fully engage the Pokagon Band community in the cultural heritage and the traditional lifeways of the its people. They recognize their clan identity and remember ancestors’ presence in modern-day gatherings like pow-wows. Elders and youth alike come together to mark seasonal changes with ceremonies, feasts and practice traditional arts such as black ash basket making and play age-old games.
- The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi is a federally recognized Indian tribe located in Southwest Michigan and the only federally recognized tribe in Indiana.
- Approximately 5,100 tribal citizens.
- Represented by an 11 member tribal council
- The Pokagon Band owns more than 6,000 acres of land in Michigan and Indiana, roughly half of which is held in trust for the tribe by the federal government.
Please visit www.pokagon.com for more information on the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi.