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Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians facts for kids

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Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians
Total population
c. 5,660 as of 2019
Regions with significant populations
Michigan & Indiana
English, Potawatomi
Christianity Roman Catholic, traditional tribal religion

Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians (Potawatomi: Pokégnek Bodéwadmik) are a federally recognized Potawatomi-speaking tribe based in southwestern Michigan and northeastern Indiana. Tribal government functions are located in Dowagiac, Michigan. They occupy reservation lands in a total of ten counties in the area.

The Pokagon are descendants of the residents of allied Potawatomi villages that were historically located along the St. Joseph, Paw Paw and Kalamazoo rivers in what are now southwest Michigan and northern Indiana. They were the only Potawatomi band to gain permission from the United States government to remain in Michigan after Indian removal in the 1830s. The tribe has been federally recognized since 1994 legislation affirmed its status; it has established self-government.


The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians were party to 11 treaties with the federal government, with the major land cession being under the 1833 Treaty of Chicago. During the Indian removals, many Potawatomi bands were moved west. But, Chief Leopold Pokagon negotiated to keep his Potawatomi band of 280 people in southwestern Michigan. They were the only Potawatomi band who did not remove west of the Mississippi River.

Under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Pokagon Band wanted to restore self-government and requested recognition as a tribe by the Department of the Interior, but were denied because of conditions of their treaties and the legislation. After years of petitioning, the Pokagon Band regained recognition in 1994 through legislation affirming their status.


As a federally recognized tribe, the Pokagon Band were able to develop and open in 2007 the Four Winds New Buffalo casino on the Pokagon Reservation. It is located at (41°46′38″N 86°42′50″W / 41.77722°N 86.71389°W / 41.77722; -86.71389), in New Buffalo Township, near New Buffalo, Michigan. The casino is operated in accordance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and a compact with Michigan. It expanded in 2011 due to its success. The Chicago Tribune reported that if the casino were on the Las Vegas Strip, it would be the second largest there.

Architecturally the casino's rotunda is built in the style of the Potawatomi people's traditional lodges. A second, satellite casino, Four Winds Hartford, opened on August 30, 2011 in Hartford, Michigan. The tribe opened a third, Four Winds Dowagiac, on April 30, 2013 in Dowagiac, Michigan. The band has been limited to three casinos by its 2008 compact with the state of Michigan. The tribe has recently proposed to construct a $480 million casino project on lands near South Bend, Indiana, which it claims qualify for gaming pursuant to specific provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The tribe has invested revenues from gaming in building needed housing and plans a community center. In a competition for federal stimulus funds, the Pokagon were granted $2 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to build a planned community center at their tribal center in Dowagiac. The 8500-square foot building has been designed to satisfy Silver LEED standards, and incorporates a number of innovations to reduce its energy use and create a sustainable building: including a green roof, thick concrete flooring to act as a heat sink, windows to the south to gain winter sun and heat, and geothermal systems.

The tribe announced plans in 2012 to build a 164-acre "tribal village" on its lands near South Bend, Indiana. This complex will include housing, healthcare, and government facilities for tribal members. In addition, it will build a casino and hotel to generate revenue for its operations.

A decreasing number of elders among the Potawatomi bands speak the language, but the Pokagon are participating in a program to restore teaching and use of the language.

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