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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Potawatomi – "Keepers of Fire" – Fire Still Burning Brightly
by Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Entertainment, Native News Network

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.

Known 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.

Last 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, Michigan;
  • 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 the
  • Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians – Dowagiac, Michigan.

Two Potawatomi Nations from Canada were present:

  • Walpole Island First Nation – Walpole Island, Ontario and
  • Wasauksing First Nation – Parry Sound, Ontario.

Next year, the Gathering of Potawatomi Nations will be back in Michigan, hosted by the Gun Lake Tribe.

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