The leaders of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians are calling a recent federal approval a "historic achievement" that will be recognized for generations. Some 166 acres of land in South Bend are now held in trust by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs "for the exclusive benefit and use of the tribe." The Pokagon Band is planning to pump more than $400 million into building a fourth Four Winds-branded casino, hotel and tribal village on the land.
The tribe is based in nearby Dowagiac, Michigan. Despite its presence in both states, neither the Pokagon Band nor any other recognized tribe had any sovereign lands in Indiana. The effort to acquire the land began four-and-a-half years ago. "The Pokagon Band has lived in this region for thousands of years," Chairman John Warren said. "This approval will help break down barriers to services for our tribal citizens and enable us to build the necessary healthcare, family services, education facilities, and homes."
The Pokagon Band is a federally recognized tribe, which gives it the right and the authority to "regulate activities on its land independently from state government control."
Vice-Chairman Bob Moody says the tribe has ceded some 5.2 million acres of homeland to the U.S. throughout the years. "One-hundred and eighty-five years later, as we reclaim only a modest portion of our homeland, we take comfort in knowing how proud our ancestors would be of this historic achievement. Restoration of our homeland will preserve our legacy for the next seven generations of Pokagon citizens and ensure that our ongoing economic contributions to South Bend will continue to grow."
Plans call for 44 housing units and a community center, as well as health, tribal government services and police facilities to be constructed near the land that will become the entertainment hub. Officials say work on the village is now underway.