During World War II, some NHBP members joined the armed services, while others took jobs in urban industries. Several men worked in factories in Battle Creek or Detroit during these years; women also took industrial jobs.

One clear indicator that the NHBP community had continued to exist after World War II was that, by 1951, the population at “Indiantown” had almost doubled since 1940; the community was still visible to outsiders. In an unidentified newspaper clipping entitled “Potawatomies Skilled Easter Basket Makers,” found in Willard Library, Battle Creek, Michigan, and hand-dated March 25, 1951, Dan Ryan reported, “For the past few weeks, the Potawatomi living in the area known as ‘Indian Town’ south and east of Fulton have been in the midst of their biggest production period of the year.”

This article focused on Mary Mandoka and the basket makers’ use of black ash from swamps near Marshall and Dowagiac.

“Every few months the Potawatomi men go to one of these swamps and cut down a load of straight ash logs. Each six-foot log costs them about 50 cents from the swamp owners. The logs are brought back to Indian Town and distributed among the 12 to 15 families residing there.”

Ryan then described in detail how the men and boys pounded the logs to obtain the strips; that Mary’s son Grover did the heavy work for her; that they colored their material by boiling the strips in kettles with dye; and that the women and youngsters did the weaving. In that specific season, Mary Mandoka made about 300 baskets for the Fulton school. Other buyers came from outside. The article also mentioned the reservation’s “tiny church with Potawatomi hymn books.”

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.