Pokagon Potawatomi tribal citizens in the Oval Office after President Bill Clinton signed document reaffirming the tribal nation 25 years ago.
Published September 19, 2019
Special Pokagon Exhibit at The History Museum in South Bend Features the History and Culture of the Region’s First People
DOWAGIAC, Mich. The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi will commemorate a very important milestone in its history on September 21, 2019, the 25th Anniversary of the Reaffirmation of its Sovereignty. To celebrate this historic event, Pokagon Citizens will enjoy a private Sovereignty Day Celebration at their Rodgers Lake campus with family-friendly cultural activities. Michiana community members and visitors interested in learning more about the history and culture of the region’s First People are encouraged to visit a special exhibit at The History Museum in South Bend called, Keepers of the Fire: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi.
Sovereignty as affirmed by the United States Government, enables the governments of federally recognized Native American Tribes to self-govern their people and lands as they did before European immigration. Similar to state governments, Tribal Governments build and maintain infrastructure and provide a variety of services and programs to their citizens in several areas including communications, education, facilities, finance, health services, housing and community development, language and culture, natural resources, social services, police and more.
The sovereign governmental status of Native American Tribes was recognized by foreign nations and the colonies prior to the formation of the Unites States and confirmed in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Treaties between the United States and Native American Tribes represent solemn commitments between governments.
Over the last two centuries, the Pokagon Band ceded over 5.2 million acres of its homeland to the United States Government in treaties. It took 185 years to reclaim only a modest portion of it, in exchange for guarantees that the federal government would protect the Pokagon Band’s right to govern its own people, its homelands and preserve its ways of life.
“The Pokagon people worked tirelessly to regain our sovereignty for most of the twentieth century, keeping the community connected, meeting regularly and maintaining our traditions and lifeways,” said Matthew Wesaw, Tribal Council Chairman of the Pokagon Band. “After decades of sacrifice and effort by hundreds of Pokagon Citizens and other volunteers, the federally recognized status of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi was reaffirmed by an act of Congress, which culminated in a signing ceremony at the White House with President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1994.”
“To look at what we’ve accomplished as a people in the last 25 years is really exciting,” added Chairman Wesaw. “With each passing milestone we move closer to realizing the dreams of our ancestors. We will continue to keep moving forward to improve the quality of life for our people for many generations to come.”
Coinciding with the 25th Anniversary of the Reaffirmation of its Sovereignty, the Pokagon Band worked closely with The History Museum of South Bend to develop a special exhibit sharing the rich culture, history, and art of its people. Now on display through January 19, 2020, Keepers of the Fire: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi invites visitors to learn more about the Pokagon’s strength and resilience, then and now.
The History Museum’s Executive Director, Randy Ray, said the rich history and culture of Michiana cannot be told without understanding the many contributions and traditions of this area’s First People. “The History Museum is honored to enjoy this collaborative partnership with the Pokagon Band that has resulted in the seminal exhibit on Pokagon culture. We are also very pleased to recognize the Band at our September 26, 2019 Annual Dinner.”
More information on the Keepers of Fire exhibit can be found by clicking on the following link: