handle-bar mustachioed William A. "Billy" Trousdale
stares sternly out of the historical photo, taken about in 1895
holding the reins of his horse.
photo of Pottawatomie County's first elected sheriff is an ancestor
of Bob Trousdale, deputy tribal administrator of the Citizen Potawatomi
Nation. It's an appropriate illustration of the rich history of
the 25,000-plus member Potawatomi tribe being recorded for future
generations in its Tribal Heritage Project.
John A. "Rocky" Barrett Jr. calls the project one of the
most exciting things he has seen happen in his 30 years as a tribal
you ever wondered what your great-grandfather sounded like, or in
some cases if you don't have a picture, what he looked like? What
your great-grandmother would have had to say about her time and
her history and what her life was like during that era when our
people moved from Kansas down to Oklahoma," Barrett says, in
the introduction of a film being shown at the tribe's nine regional
tribal councils to encourage participation. "That would be
a fascinating thing to have."
42 Potawatomi families who sold their land in the late 1860s to
the railroads and moved to Oklahoma, sought new lives in Indian
Territory, where they hoped not to be removed once again.
think of history as being information of the past, but today's history
is really the future history of the tribe as well," says Bob
Trousdale. "Our history is the community's history really,
if you stop and think about it. Because the tribe was here before
statehood. The tribal heritage project is reaching back in history
to the ancestral families and recording that history through those
Tribal Heritage Project will be part of the developing 30,000-square-foot
Cultural Center, planned to be built north of the tribal headquarters
on Gordon Cooper Drive in Shawnee.
first heritage project and pilot piece was done on the Amable and
Mary Margaret Toupin family, ancestors of Bob Trousdale. Interviews
were done with several family members to piece together the film,
which is interspliced with historical photos and footage of the
town of Trousdale, almost a ghost town now.
project under way is that of the Navarre ancestral tribal family
of Linda Capps, tribal administrator, planned to be completed soon.
Several other family documentaries are already in the works.
says they try to interview as many people as possible in their travels
across the country to promote the project.
is always one or two who are the matriarch or patriarch of the family
who has all that information," he says.
Clark does the research that brings the projects together.
documents, photos and film are recorded digitally, followed by the
writing of a script. A narrator or voice over tells the story.
they are finished, each family will have its own documentary, which
can be updated and evolved as more is compiled about the family's
veterans' project is interrelated to the heritage project, with
four veterans' interviews completed.
is different in that it talks about one individual and their experience
in war time," Trousdale says.
first veteran's piece completed featured former CPN business committee
member Kenneth Peltier, who served on the USS Franklin in World
new cultural center will house the tribal heritage project, a museum
and meeting hall, called the "Long Room," which will seat
800 to 900 for dining or 1,000 in a theater-style configuration.
will provide state-of-the-art technical support to reach out to
the eight regional offices around the country.
will provide real time interconnectivity with all of our tribal
members around the country who wish to be," says Jeremy Finch,
CPN director of cultural resources.
says it's important for tribal members to understand that the new
center won't be just " a repository for dead things."
His vision is to have bilingual signage throughout the center, with
Potawatomi and English on each sign.
has everything to do with a modern, progressive, contemporary American
Indian nation, which is what we pride ourselves in being,"
Finch says. "Do we have artifacts? Yes, we do. But we make
history every day."
cultural center will also have a computer-assisted language lab
and a permanent exhibit hall to display tribal treasures illustrating
the unique history of the Potawatomi.
never had teepees," Finch says as an example.
all these projects come back to one thing. Tribe is family, says
hope that 100 years from now, (tribal members') grandchildren or
great-grandchildren or great-great grandchildren will be able to
come back and look at films of (tribal members) and see themselves,"
the chairman says.
says that was only one of the goals of the heritage project, however.
other was to provide an understanding of tribal members connectivity
with the tribe.
tribe is about family and what this film is about is capturing characteristics
of your family," Barrett says.