In the spring of 1972, the NHBP decided to make their first concerted effort since 1934 at seeking federal acknowledgment. This effort continued for several years with little progress despite great effort.

On March 11, 1972, Tribal Council adopted a resolution to

“…inform the Minneapolis Area Office, Bureau of Indian Affairs Land Operation, of its decision to apply for federal status as an Indian reservation and to ask the State of Michigan to have the Pine Creek Reservation transferred to the Federal government as Federal trust land.”

The resolution was accompanied by a list of signatures in support of organization under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and transferring title to the 120 acre Pine Creek Reservation into federal trust.

On January 23, 1973, in an internal memorandum, Mrs. Zelma Barrow of the Office of Tribal Operations, Bureau of Indian Affairs, stated, “I see no reason why the Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians should not be extended Federal recognition.”  This opening statement was followed by a nine-page overview of the group’s status.

A couple of months later, on March 30, 1973, several Huron Potawatomi members were successful in gaining a measure of historical recognition when the “Indiantown” settlement was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as Pine Creek Indian Reservation.

David Mackety and the Tribal Council soon realized that seeking federal acknowledgment was a long-drawn-out process. From the perspective of the general members, however, months had passed without discernable evidence that the leadership was making progress toward federal acknowledgment. They began asking each other if the goal was worthwhile and how federal acknowledgment, once achieved by the group, would benefit members. Feeling the pressure from the membership, Mackety scheduled a personal meeting with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Morris Thompson, and left for Washington, D.C. in early 1974.

Shortly after returning from his Washington trip, Commissioner Thompson sent a letter to Mackety outlining the services members would be eligible to receive if the NHBP became acknowledged:

  • Revenue sharing
  • Scholarships
  • Johnson-O’Malley funds
  • Adult vocational training
  • Direct employment assistance (transportation to the site of a position and subsistence until one’s first paycheck)
  • Realty services
  • Road services
  • Law and order (Michigan does not service Federal Indian reservations)
  • Housing assistance through HUD and home improvement
  • Tribal government services
  • Forestry
  • Social services

On April 13, 1974, during a council meeting, the council shared the list of BIA services with attending members. This list reignited the interest among Huron Potawatomi’s general membership.

In November 1975, Mackety and the council resubmitted a petition for federal reaffirmation to Commissioner Thompson documenting the support of the group’s general membership. Mackety submitted the Huron Potawatomi petition with a letter of support signed by 99 members, which constituted “approximately a good third of [closer to half of the adults in] our Tribal Band.”

To acquire support from state and national leaders, using a variety of communications methods, the HPI council brought their economic and federal acknowledgment concerns to the attention of several prominent State and Federal officials. Officials of Michigan agencies, the U. S. Department of the Interior staff, and two Presidents became aware of and then wrote supportive letters on behalf of, HPI during the 1970s.

In February 1979, Henry Bush Jr. assumed the role of advocate for Huron Potawatomi, Inc. He wrote a letter directly to President Carter with the belief that the letter would serve in some way to create a memorial event to the NHBP’s existence.

In this letter he described the frustration felt by those who had earnestly worked to achieve Federal acknowledgment during the 1970s and before:

“The Huron Potawatomi Tribal Council has listened, followed suggestions, guidelines of government, and procedures. After many years and many reams of paper it seems that the end of the trail is once again back to the point of beginning.” Bush concluded with an appeal to the President: “The Huron Band of Potawatomi Indian people need help in their quest for Federal Recognition. Anything that your expertise could or would contribute in this direction will certainly be appreciated.”

Using documents gathered during the previous and current council administrations, Bush attached several boilerplate letters of support and resolutions from local government entities to emphasize his appeal.

Moreover, the State of Michigan House of Representatives provided their endorsement when they passed Concurrent Resolution No. 76, which supported HPI’s request for Federal acknowledgment, as its title suggests. The House adopted this Resolution on April 3, 1979, and by the Senate on May 23, 1979:

A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION URGING THE UNITED STATES BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS TO GIVE EXPEDITIOUS CONSIDERATION TO THE HURON POTAWATOMI INDIANS’ REQUEST FOR FEDERAL RECOGNITION.

“Whereas, the Potawatomi Indians living on the Pine Creek Reservation near Athens, Michigan, lack all necessary services to maintain their health and safety. All of the twelve housing units are substandard according to a Calhoun County housing inspector. The stove-heated shacks are in desperate need of winterization, lacking insulation, storm doors and windows, and running water. In addition, the absence of police and fire protection along with the abject isolation of the reservation have created precarious living conditions; and Whereas, the Pine Creek Reservation has nearly exhausted all sources of funds available to it, with maintenance money having already run its course during a particularly discomforting winter. The lack of career opportunities has driven the younger Potawatomi Indians away long ago, leaving the average age of residents on the reservation at fifty-seven years. The typical resident is compelled to exist well below the poverty level, subsisting on Social Security with an annual income below $2,000; and Whereas, Due to legal complications concerning the ownership of the Pine Creek Reservation land, the Potawatomis have been unable to procure funds that they are in desperate need of and entitled to. A recent application for a $300,000 federal grant was denied because the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development cannot act until the ownership controversy has been resolved.”

References:

McKay, Rick. Battle Creek Enquirer. 15 Oct. 1978.

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.