Figure 61. Signing of the 1995 Federal Reaffirmation Document in the White House Treaty Room. From Left to Right: Dale Kildee (U.S. Congressman for Michigan’s 9th Congressional District in 1995), Unknown, Shirley English (NHBP Tribal Council Chairwoman in 1995), Ada E. Deer (Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Indian Affairs), Michael J. Anderson (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs), and Loretta Avent (President Bill Clinton’s Special Assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs). Reprinted from NHBP Historical Collection, December 19, 1995.
The Huron Potawatomi’s first response to the Obvious Deficiency Review Response letter (OD) sent in the fall of 1987, was submitted a little over three years later but was withdrawn by the Tribal Council in July 1992 (Summary Under the Criteria and Evidence for Proposed Finding Huron Potawatomi, Inc., 1995, p. 6).
On July 11, 1992, a newsletter summarized the result of a recent community meeting by highlighting an NHBP unanimous vote, where the attendees agreed “that HPI continue to seek Federal acknowledgment in keeping with the group’s constitution…” (Summary Under the Criteria and Evidence for Proposed Finding Huron Potawatomi, Inc., 1995, p. 145).
BAR received a second response to the OD letter on February 5, 1993. The petition was declared ready for active consideration on February 5, 1993, and was placed on active consideration July 27, 1993. Because of staffing problems within the BAR, a six-month extension of the active consideration period, to December 27, 1994, was requested and granted by the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs. A second extension for preparation of the Proposed Finding, to February 27, 1995, was also requested and granted, as was a third to April 25, 1995 (Summary Under the Criteria and Evidence for Proposed Finding Huron Potawatomi, Inc., 1995, p. 6).
On December 19, 1995, the United States government restored “federal recognition” to the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi.
Figure 62. Video of the 20th Anniversary Celebrating the Importance of the 1995 Federal Reaffirmation, by Nottawseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Communications Department, December 19, 1995 (www.facebook.com/NHBPI/videos/1480919072028975/).
Tribal members traveled from Michigan to Washington D.C. to take part in the historic signing of the federal reaffirmation of the Tribe. Current Tribal Council Vice Chairperson Dorie Rios, who was 21 at the time, remembers that day:
My uncle was on the Tribal Council at the time, Amos Day, Jr., and I’ve never seen him be emotional. He’s always been so stoic, which I admired that about him. And he broke down, and that’s literally when it kicked in what it meant to be federally recognized. The struggles that he and the rest of my family went through on the reservation, what they did not have, what they endured and – that’s when I got it – what “federally recognized” meant for our nation (Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Communications Department, 2015, 3:52).
“Federal recognition” means that the United States government recognizes the status of a tribe as a sovereign (a status first recognized in the treaties the United States signed with that tribe). Several terms and concepts must be understood to appreciate the impact, importance, and meaning federal recognition, or federal reaffirmation has had on the NHBP.
The first term is “sovereignty,” a governing body’s full right and power over itself, without any intrusion from outside sources or bodies. Non-recognized tribes can form tribal organizations but lack sovereign powers (Milwaukee Public Museum, n.d., p. 1). Nations that possess absolute sovereignty are entirely independent of any other political power; examples are the United States, Mexico, Japan, and Germany. The federal government possesses absolute sovereignty in the United States; however, it shares some power with the states. Consequently, the states share a portion of their power with counties, towns, villages, and cities. Power shared in this type of arrangement is called divided sovereignty (Milwaukee Public Museum, n.d., p. 2).
Figure 63. U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs Federal Reaffirmatin Document. Signed by Ada E. Deer (Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Indian Affairs) and Witnessed by Dale Kildee (U.S. Congressman for Michigan’s 9th Congressional District in 1995), Michael J. Anderson (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs), and Loretta Avent (President Bill Clinton’s Special Assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs). Reprinted from NHBP Historical Collection, December 19, 1995.
When Europeans first encountered American Indian tribes, they often treated them as political entities possessing absolute sovereignty. Likewise, in the United States’ early history, the federal government recognized Indian tribes as fully independent and sovereign powers; however, as settlers pushed west, the federal government sought to limit tribes’ sovereign powers. The US wanted to prevent tribes from making diplomatic alliances with foreign nations such as Spain, France, and Great Britain, especially following the War of 1812, during which many tribes sided with Great Britain (Milwaukee Public Museum, n.d., p. 2).
This practice became embedded in federal law in 1832 when United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall issued his famous decision in the case of Worcester v. Georgia. This decision defined Indian tribes as “domestic dependent nations.” In other words, they were no longer independent nations possessing absolute sovereignty (Milwaukee Public Museum, n.d., p. 2).
Indian tribes today are still considered domestic-dependent nations. Federally recognized tribes are those Indian groups that the United States acknowledges have a right to tribal self-government regarding their internal affairs and is like the diplomatic recognition that the United States extends to foreign nations. When a tribe is federally recognized, it has the right to establish a tribal government and enter into agreements with the federal government in much the same way that the federal government makes agreements with Canada and Mexico. Because they are defined as domestic-dependent nations, Indian tribes may not make treaties or agreements with other countries except the United States (Milwaukee Public Museum, n.d., p. 2).
Federally recognized tribes can also have their reservation lands placed in trust. This means that the federal government protects their land from being purchased or taken by non-Indians. If a tribe is not federally recognized, it can own land as a corporate entity, but the federal government will not put these lands into trust for the tribe; therefore, federally recognized tribes also have what is called a trust relationship with the government. This means that the federal authorities will protect their sovereign status, their lands and tribal property, and their rights as members of domestic dependent nations (Milwaukee Public Museum, n.d., p. 1).
In summary, federal reaffirmation was a defining point in the NHBP history and the Pine Creek Reservation. It acknowledged a unique and interconnected group of people, allowing access to needed government programs unavailable to non-recognized tribes. This access stimulated a period of home and infrastructure construction. Today the reservation is bustling with activity and is becoming a showcase community (Rodwan & Anewishki, 2009, p. 19).
FireKeepers Casino. (2015, December 19). NHBP To Celebrate 20th Anniversary of Federal Recognition. firekeeperscasino.com/news/nhbp-to-celebrate-20th-anniversary-of-federal-recognition
Milwaukee Public Museum. (n.d.). Federal Acknowledgement or Recognition. Wisconsin Indian Resource Project. Retrieved from https://www.mpm.edu/content/wirp/ICW-104
Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Communications Department. (2015). 20th Anniversary Federal Recognition. Facebook. www.facebook.com/NHBPI/videos/1480919072028975/
Rodwan, J., & Anewishki, V. (2009). Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi: A People in Progress. Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Environmental Department.
Summary Under the Criteria and Evidence for Proposed Finding Huron Potawatomi, Inc. (1995). United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs Branch of Acknowledgement and Research. https://www.bia.gov/sites/bia.gov/files/assets/as-ia/ofa/petition/009_hurpot_MI/009_pf.pdf