Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation

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According to tradition, the Prarie Band of Potawatomi were closely associated with the Chippewa and Ottawa, with whom they reached the region at the upper end of Lake Huron. They were reported by the Jesuits as still living together as late as 1841. Today, in Kansas, the Prairie Band of Potawatomi is descended mainly from Indiana, Illinois and Michigan Potawatomi. 

Official Tribal Name: Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation

Address:  16281 Q Road, Mayetta KS 66509-8970
Phone: (785) 966-4000
Fax:
Email: Contact Form

Official Website: www.pbpindiantribe.com/

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:

Bode’wadmi– Firekeepers
Neshnabek – The Potawatomi’s traditional name for themselves
The name Potawatomink or Potawaganink meaning “people of the place of the fire” or “nation of fire” originally applied to the Potawatomi and their close neighbors, the Sauk.

Common Name / Meaning of Common Name: Potawatomi

Alternate names / Alternate spellings / Misspellings:

Formerly known as the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation 

Potawatomie, Pottawatomie, Pattowatomie

Name in other languages:

Region: Northeast

State(s) Today: Kansas primarily, a few in Wisconsin and Michigan, and in Canada

Traditional Territory:

The first contacts with non-Indians occurred in 1641. In 1670 a portion of the Potawatomi were living on the islands at the mouth of Green Bay in the vicinity of the Jesuit mission of St. Francis Xavier. They were moving southward and by the close of the 17th century had established themselves on the Milwaukee River at Chicago and on the St. Joseph River mostly in territory previously held by the Miami.

By the beginning of the 19th century they occupied country around the head of Lake Michigan from the Milwaukee River in Wisconsin to the Grand River in Michigan and extending southwest over a large part of northern Illinois, east across Michigan to Lake Eric and south into Indiana. Within this territory they had about 50 villages.

As white settlement rapidly pressed upon them, the Potawatomi sold their land piecemeal and removed west beyond the Mississippi. A part of the Potawatomi tribe remained in Indiana until forced out by the military. Some escaped into Canada and are now settled on Walpole Island in Lake St. Clair.

Those Potawatomi who went west were settled partly in West Iowa and partly in Kansas. In 1846 they were all united on a reservation in Kansas.

Confederacy:  Council of Three Fires, Ojibwe

Treaties:

During the French and Indian War the Potawatomi sided actively with the French and were prominent in the uprising under Pontiac. On the breaking out of the American Revolution in 1775 they took up arms against the U.S. and continued hostilities until the treaty of Greenville in 1795. They again took up arms in the British interest in 1812 and made final treaties of peace in 1815.

The 1829 Treaty of Prairie du Chien reserved two sections of land near Paw Paw Grove, Illinois for Potawatomi Chief Shab-eh-nay and his Band. In 1849, the land was illegally sold through public auction by the U.S. Government. Since an act of Congress or a subsequent treaty is necessary to extinguish the Tribe’s rights to the reservation and it wasn’t included in the cession treaties, it continues legally to belong to the Prairie Band Potawatomi.

Two treaties, one in 1861 and another in 1867, carved the existing reservation with a land base of 568,223 acres into portions that accommodated individual interests. The railroad received over 338,000 acres, Jesuit interests 320 acres, Baptist interests 320 acres, and the rest was divided into separate plots. The Jesuits, although failing ultimately to make Kansas a center of Catholic interest, did eventually settle approximately 2,300 acres around St. Mary’s Mission.

The Prairie Band Potawatomi Reservation initially constituted 11 square miles in the northeast corner of the original reservation. Here, as elsewhere, the exploitation of the Indian lands became the key to the development of the white man’s economy. The total Potawatomi holdings began at 568,223 acres in 1846 and by 1867 had decreased by 87 percent to only 77,357 acres.

In 1887 Congress passed the Dawes Act or the General Allotment Act of 1887. The government deemed this law a “virtual necessity.” They said they could no longer protect Indian lands from further settlement and the demands of the railroads and other enterprises. The basic premise of the General Allotment Act was to give each Indian a private plot of land on which to become an industrious farmer. To hasten assimilation, the law provided for the end of tribal relationships, such as land held in common.

Reservation: Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation Reservation

The original reservation in Kansas acquired under the Treaty of June 5 and 17, 1846, consisted of 576,000 acres but this treaty was modified by subsequent treaties and legislation which provided for allotment and for sale of surplus lands. The present reservation is located in Jackson County approximately 17 miles north of Topeka, Kansas,  and 3 miles south of Horton, Kansas, in Jackson County.

Land Area:
  The Prairie Band reservation is 11 miles square. It contains 19,682 acres of allotted land (individually owned) and 2,961 acres of tribal land.
Tribal Headquarters:  
Time Zone:  

Population at Contact:

The population of the Potawatomi never exceeded 3,000 in the 1600s. In 1812 it had increased fivefold to an estimated 12,000 after the Iroquois forced them out of Michichan and they moved to Wisconsin, where they became farmers.  

The Indian Removal Act of 1830, which called for the removal of all Tribes east of the Mississippi to reservations west of the Mississippi, caused the breakup of the Potawatomi Tribes. Some members fled to Canada, some managed to stay in the east in hiding or on small reservations, and the other 7,000 to 8,000 persons moved to reservations in Missouri and Iowa.

In 1843 the population was recorded as 1,800, but that number does not include the number of Potawatomi who fled to Canada. 

A treaty in 1846 forced the ceding of 5,000,000 acres in these two states for 576,000 acres of land in Kansas. Tribal population had been reduced by this time to about 3,200 people due to the effects of migration, epidemics, and forced marches.

In 1861 a large part of the Potawatomi Tribe took land in severalty and became known as the Citizen Potawatomi. The others known as the Prairie Band remained in Kansas except for a few in Wisconsin and the small Huron band in Michigan.

Registered Population Today:

While there are over 5000 enrolled Prairie Band Potawatomi tribal members, as of 2000, only about 463 live on the reservation. The total reservation population is about 900, with Potawatomi people only making up 46% of the reservation population. The rest are whites and a few Indians who are members of other tribes. The 1990 Census indicated that the non-Indian population on the Reservation was 580 persons.

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

Enrollment has declined considerably since a May 2000 amendment to the constitution, which made it necessary for members to possess at least 1/4 Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation blood.

Genealogy Resources:

Government:

Charter:  Indian Reorganization Act of 1934,as approved the Secretary of the Interior on February 19, 1976
Name of Governing Body:
 Tribal Council
Number of Council members:  A seven-member Tribal Council is elected by the Tribe’s General Council, which consists of all voting age members of the Tribe.
Dates of Constitutional amendments:  August 28, 1985
Number of Executive Officers: 
 The Tribal Council consists of a Chairperson, a Vice Chairperson, a Secretary, a Treasurer and three Council members.

Elections:

Elections are held Annually for four-year terms (staggered)

Language Classification:  Algic => Algonquian => Central Algonquian => Ojibwa-Potawatomi => Potawatomi

Language Dialects: Potawatomi

Potawatomi is an Algonquian language closely related to the Ojibwayan dialect complex.

Number of fluent Speakers:

The Potawatomi language is critically endangered and nearly extinct. It has about 50 first-language speakers in several widely separated communities in the US and Canada. These include the Hannahville Indian Community (Upper Peninsula of Michigan), the Pokagon and Huron Bands (southern Michigan), the Forest County Band (northern Wisconsin), the Prairie Band (eastern Kansas), and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Oklahoma. A few Potawatomi speakers also live among the Eastern Ojibwe in Ontario, particularly at the Walpole Island Reserve. The largest speech communities are in the Forest County and Prairie Bands, each with about 20 speakers, several conservatively fluent.

Dictionary:

Origins:

Bands, Gens, and Clans

Related Tribes:

Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Forest County Potawatomi Community, Hannahville Indian Community, Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians of Michigan, Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, and Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians

Traditional Allies:

Chippewa, Sac (Sauk), Fox and Kickapoo Tribes

Traditional Enemies:

 Iroquois

Ceremonies / Dances:

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Legends / Oral Stories:

Art & Crafts:

Animals:

Clothing:

Housing:

Subsistance:

Prior to A.D. 1500, the Tribe lived north of Lakes Huron and Superior. The Potawatomi were hunter-gatherers who subsisted by hunting, fishing and gathering wild plant foods. After 1500, the Potawatomi migrated to what is now the lower Michigan peninsula, settling in along Lake Michigan. The Sac, Fox and Kickapoo Tribes helped the Potawatomi learn to grow their own crops, such as beans, squashes, tobacco, melons, and corn. These crops provided surpluses that created a more secure life for the Potawatomi and increased their population five fold.

In the early 1600’s, the Europeans came to the lower Michigan peninsula. The Tribe began trading animal furs with the French for ammunition, metal goods, whiskey, tobacco and a few imported goods. This trading ended the Tribe’s self-sufficiency and began its subsequent history of displacement and dependency. The continued use of European technologies gradually destroyed the Indian’s ability to get along without them and made them a captive to rather than a partner in trade.

Economy Today:

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Burial Customs:

Wedding Customs 
Radio:  
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Potawatomi Chiefs and Famous People:

Actors:

Renae Morriseau 

Athletes:

Jim Thorpe whose indian name was Wathohuck , meaning Bright Star (Sauk/Pottawatomi 1888–1953), athlete who won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics

Catastrophic Events:

Tribe History:

Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Potawatomi Tribe (the Neshnabek in their native language) was a self-sufficient people. Prior to A.D. 1500, the Tribe lived north of Lakes Huron and Superior. The Potawatomi subsisted by hunting, fishing and gathering wild plant foods. After 1500, the Tribe migrated to what is now the lower Michigan peninsula, settling along Lake Michigan. The Sac, Fox and Kickapoo Tribes helped the Potawatomi to learn to grow their own crops, such as beans, squashes, tobacco, melons, and corn. These crops provided surpluses that created a more secure life for the Tribe.

In the early 1600’s, the Europeans came to the lower Michigan peninsula. The Tribe began trading animal furs with the French for ammunition, metal goods, whiskey, tobacco and a few imported goods. This trading ended the Tribe’s self-sufficiency and began its subsequent history of displacement and dependency. The continued use of European technologies gradually destroyed the Indian’s ability to get along without them and made them a captive to rather than a partner in trade.

In the 1650’s, the Potawatomi Tribe was forced from their homes in Michigan by the New York Iroquois Tribes. These Tribes were seeking new beaver producing territory to supply the fur trade with the Europeans. The Potawatomi Tribe was driven across Lake Michigan into Wisconsin, near Green Bay, where is prospered. By 1812, the Tribe’s population had increased fivefold to 12,000 and they inhabited the southeast part of Wisconsin, returned to southwest Michigan along the St. Joseph River and occupied portions of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

The Potawatomi Tribe’s primary trading partner and ally was France. Siding with the French against the British in the French and Indian War of 1754 to 1763 cost the Potawatomi Tribe dearly. The British blockade prevented the acquisition of the European trade goods the Tribe had become accustomed to and left the Tribe impoverished by the end of the war.

While the Tribe’s dealings with the French and British had left them impoverished, they still maintained possession of their lands. However, the experience with the new United States was quite different. Even though some groups of Potawatomi fought with the United States in its revolutionary war, the new Tribe believed they had won sovereignty over the lands of the Indians. War with the United States, the dependency on modern technologies, and the declining fur trade all combined to impoverish the Potawatomi Tribe and force it to sell their lands by treaty. These treaties were highly profitable to the trading companies, the federal government, and the States, but a total disaster for the Potawatomi.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830, which called for the removal of all Tribes east of the Mississippi to reservations west of the Mississippi, caused the breakup of the Potawatomi Tribes. Come members fled to Canada, some managed to stay in the east in hiding or on small reservations, and the other 7,000 to 8,000 persons moved to reservations in Missouri and Iowa. A treaty in 1846 force the ceding of 5,000,000 acres in these two states for 576,000 acres of land in Kansas. Tribal population had been reduced to about 3,200 people due to the effects of migration, epidemics, and forced marches.

The pressure for Potawatomi land continued in the 1860s due to the westward expansion of the white population along trails near and through the Reservation. The desire of railroad builders to put a transcontinental railroad through the Potawatomi lands and to acquire that land for resale to white settlers at inflated prices added to the pressure. An 1861 treaty, as amended in 1868, allowed the sale of over half the Reservation for less than one-fourth its free market value. The Mission Band Potawatomi favored the allotment of lands which many soon lost or sold and were rendered homeless paupers.

One group of conservative Potawatomi, now known as the Prairie Band, held out and were granted a small reservation, in 1861, which was owned in common. This Band of about 450 persons lived on their 77,440 acre reservation trying to maintain the traditional way of life. They practiced their old religion, hunted buffalo and attempted to maintain their cultural identity.

Even this small 11 mile square area was too much to let the Potawatomi keep. The General Allotment Act of 1887 provided a method for the federal government to attempt to break up communal ownership of reservation and eliminate tribal organizations. The Prairie Band initially resisted the allotment, under the leadership of an outspoken leader named Wakwaboshkok. However, they were forced to give in when the government withheld federal payments due them and started awarding allotments to whites, Indians from other Tribes, and the agents’ relatives. Within 30 years of the full allotment of the reservation, the Prairie Band Tribe was nearly landless. By 1978, approximately 80% of the land was owned by non-Indians and the Tribe had only 550 dispersed acres in communal ownership.

The Prairie Band survived attempts by the government to eliminate its tribal identity through the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and the 1950s policy of termination. The conservative Prairie Band resisted attempts to be absorbed into the American melting pot. However, in 1967, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs stepped in and the old leaders were cast out, a new constitution approved and new leaders elected by a membership of outsiders, largely marginal to the reservation community.

In the News:

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