SOUTH BEND - The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians will commemorate Saturday an important milestone, marking the 25th anniversary of the reaffirmation of its sovereignty.  President Bill Clinton signed the legislation in 1994 which federally recognized the Michigan-based Potawatomi. The Pokagon Band’s ten-county service area includes four counties in southwest Michigan and six in northern Indiana.

Sovereignty enables the governments of federally recognized Native American tribes to self-govern their people and lands. Tribal governments, like state governments, can build and maintain infrastructure and provide a variety of services and programs to their citizens.

“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. 

The reaffirmation of the Pokagon’s sovereignty also allowed them to enter into the gaming business. The band operates three casinos in Michigan and the Four Winds Casino in South Bend. Last month, the Pokagon announced its intentions to build a 23-story hotel next to the casino.

“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.”

Using some of the casino revenue, the band also built a justice center and health care clinic in Dowagiac, Michigan, where the Pokagon is headquartered.

Coinciding with the 25th anniversary, the Pokagon Band worked closely with The History Museum of South Bend to develop an exhibit sharing the culture, history, and art of its people. It’s now on display and will continue through January 19, 2020.