By 1960, most of the group’s members were no longer living at Pine Creek but had moved to cities in southern Michigan that provided employment opportunities. Continuing a trend to seek off-reservation employment that had begun in the 1940s, more and more of the young adults moved out of the core geographical area centered at Pine Creek. The dispersal resulted from a rapidly increasing birth rate which caused significant population pressure on the limited Pine Creek land. The NHBP population had 30 known births from 1930-39; 77 known births from 1940-49; and 204 known births from 1950-59.

The exodus away from Pine Creek was not random; it took place as a migration chain, in which neighbors and relatives who had moved invited other NHBP members to follow and assisted them with housing and employment. A clear pattern emerged by which those who left the core area settled in five specific towns or cities where, today, 20 or more members still reside; these were Grand Rapids, Bradley, Hartford, Mount Pleasant, and Lansing.

Two of these towns, Hartford and Bradley, were centers of other surviving southern Michigan Potawatomi bands: the Pokagon (in Hartford) and the Match-e-be-nash-she-wish (at Bradley). Two others, Grand Rapids and Mount Pleasant, were centers of Indian settlement and activity in the Lower Peninsula. Beginning in the 1960s and continuing to the present, more than 80 percent of the NHBP outmigration would move to one of these five locations.

A Detroit News newspaper article, written about the reservation near Athens, published December 17, 1961, confirmed the migration, saying that “the numbers and area were dwindling steadily toward extinction.” The remaining residents were described as living a life that was a mixture of the old and new. For instance, some still hunted and trapped; Amos Day and his brother Alexander were said to earn up to $10.00 daily trapping raccoon, muskrat, and an occasional mink. Albert Mackety weaved baskets.

This article also described nearby Indian Town as “a spot marked unmistakably by poverty,” with humble homes heated by wood, an unpaved road, and scarcely any telephones. Some homes had no inside plumbing, though most had electric lights. The population was “100 or so.”

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.