The relative prosperity of the settlement in the later nineteenth century fell prey to the general agricultural decline of the post-World-War-I era and was intensified by the Great Depression. To illustrate this dramatic change, the turn of the century “Indiantown Inkling” had mentioned the existence of horses and plows; in contrast, Austin Mandoka reported in a 1934 letter to COlA John Collier,
“No Indians own any horses, cows, or farm implements. Each spring, gardens are spaded for raising potatoes, and a few other vegetables, and in the fall, when it’s time to harvest, there’s very little crop left; most instances nothing left. We have been depending on the County for relief purposes. All of the men, or heads of families, have been working on the CWA [Civil Works Administration) projects, that being the means of providing food and clothing the past winter. It’s impossible to obtain work in factories, and there’s very little or no farm work.”
Because of the Depression, a great many members of the group moved away from Pine Creek and Athens looking for work. A good synopsis of the situation at the end of the 1930s was presented in the WPA Guide, “Michigan – A Guide to the Wolverine State,” compiled in 1941 under the Writers’ Program of the W.P.A.
“Right on State 78 is Athens (622 pop.) along the Nottawaseepe River, a tributary of the St. Joseph…money used to establish an Indian settlement on the site of what is now Indiantown. Ahead on State 78 to a junction with a graveled road, 2.6 miles, straight ahead to a second graveled road. Here the committee from Athens purchased land and erected six log cabins, a barn, and a schoolhouse. The Potawatomi, peace-loving agriculturists who inherited the valleys of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Rivers, once called their group by thousands and their acres in four figures, had at Indiantown only 60 tribal members remaining to till a meager 120 acres. Chief Mandoka, the last of the properly designated chiefs of the Potawatomi, died in 1934 in his 71st year. The Indian children attend the public schools of the district, and the adults, to supplement the income derived from the weaving of baskets, seek employment in Athens.”
By 1940, only 35 residents remained on the Pine Creek site. However, most returned for regular visits with relatives, as reported in the “Indiantown Inklings” column, and some eventually resettled on the Pine Creek land.
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.
WPA Guide. Michigan – A Guide to the Wolverine State. Writers’ Program of the W.P.A., Compiled in 1941.