Dowagiac, MI The 19th Annual Gathering of Potawatomi Nations
is now history, but it will be long remembered as a place where
Potawatomi from nine bands gathered under bright skies and green
trees to celebrate who they are as Potawatomi people.
as the "keepers of the fire," the Potawatomi have had a presence
in Michigan for centuries, so for many descendants who were in Dowagiac,
the home base of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, it was a time to
remember where their ancestors lived up until the mid-1840s when
they were forced to Kansas and Oklahoma.
"I really liked that we come together as one people," said John
Warren, treasurer of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi. "Even though
I don't have the complete number of those who registered, I think
over three thousand people came."
"Seeing my relatives from Kansas was special. I love watching
my 82 year old mother's eyes light up when she sees her cousin from
Mayetta," said Deb Bloom, a tribal citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi
Nation, a lifelong resident of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Warren said it was an enormous task getting ready and hosting
the event that began last Monday with a language camp. Over 120
tribal employees worked hard to make the gathering a success.
The Gathering provided for numerous workshops to where attendees
could learn black ash basket making, pottery and drum making.
Thursday, the Tribe hosted a youth conference at the Dowagiac Middle
School. The luncheon keynote speaker, Dr. Jessica Rickert, the first
female American Indian dentist told the students that there is a
great need for American Indian youth to become scientists.
Elected officials met at the Tribe's Four Winds Casino and Resort
at New Buffalo also on Thursday to discuss common concerns of Potawatomi
people, such as health care, language preservation and culture.
"The one high point for me was seeing one of the largest assembling
of elected officials from the various Potawatomi bands meet. Just
seeing 67 officials in one room talking about things common to us
was very exciting," said Warren. "We were there and said we need
to do this more than one time per year. As a result, elected officials
agreed to meet again this fall and then again next spring."
All of the Potawatomi nations from the United States were represented
at Dowagiac. Present were:
- The Citizens Potawatomi Nation Shawnee, Oklahoma;
- Forest County Potawatomi Community Crandon, Wisconsin;
- Hannahville Potawatomi Indian Community Wilson, Michigan;
- Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Fulton,
- Match-E-Be-Nash- She-Wish-Band of Pottawatomi Indians, commonly
known as the Gun Lake Tribe Dorr, Michigan;
- Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Mayetta, Kansas; and
- Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians Dowagiac, Michigan.
Two Potawatomi Nations from Canada were present:
- Walpole Island First Nation Walpole Island, Ontario
- Wasauksing First Nation Parry Sound, Ontario.
Next year, the Gathering of Potawatomi Nations will be back
in Michigan, hosted by the Gun Lake Tribe.