After World War II, the pattern of work off the reservation continued to grow. For many of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, this period marked the first participation in the urban labor market.

By the end of the war, factory employment and other urban jobs had largely replaced the earlier dependence on seasonal farm work and subsistence farming. In the 1950s, the economic recession pushed several residents into looking for employment much farther away from the Pine Creek Reservation. Several related families (five children of Henry Medawis and Mary Pamptopee as well as their families) moved to the south side of Grand Rapids; other members of the band took jobs in Battle Creek or Kalamazoo and moved there to live. Others found housing in the rural areas near Athens because of inadequate housing on the reservation or the inability to get loans to build there because of the land’s trust status. Some worked with Indian programs, like the Grand Rapids Intertribal Council or All-Indian Outreach.

Of the specific occupations listed in 1951, Homer Mandoka was an expert orchardman; Grover Mandoka, a foreman in the lumber camps, specializing in work with mechanical saws. Albert Mackety, a patriarch of the tribe, whose neat house and well-kept lawns were the “pride of the reservation,” had sons David Mackety (an expert tool and die maker), Hubert Mackety (a machinist), Sam Mackety (a pastor of the Indian church at Mt. Pleasant), and another son who was studying for the ministry in Cincinnati. Levi

Pamp, “grandson of the chief,” was a full-time basket maker because he had to work at home to nurse his son, Maynard, who for 25 years was crippled by polio. Another of Levi’s sons, Leonard Pamptopee, was a tree surgeon; a third, Kenneth Pamptopee, was attending high school in Athens.

By the later 1950s, the reservation presented a combination of tradition and adaption. In 1958, Athens Indians told the local paper that the price of fur was so low that it was hardly worth catching a cold over the hunting and trapping. Two years later, an interview with Albert Mackety indicated that Michigan’s restrictive conservation measures were having a major impact on the Potawatomi way of life in Calhoun County. Mackety, retired from Duplex Printing Press Company, was peeling black ash for his wife’s basket weaving; he had trailed a buck in the swamp that morning while cutting black ash. Levi Pamp, age 66, recalled dugout canoes on Pine Creek in 1908, but said, “Now, we’ve got conservation laws. And trespass laws.”

References:

United States, Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs Branch of Acknowledgement and Research, et al. “Summary Under the Criteria and Evidence for Proposed Finding Huron Potawatomi, Inc.” HPI-V001-D004, https://www.bia.gov/sites/bia.gov/files/assets/as-ia/ofa/petition/009_hurpot_MI/009_pf.pdf.