Sunday, August 8, 2010

2010 Potawatomi Gathering Notes

The 2010 Potawatomi Gathering is now history.  It was held in Shawnee, Oklahoma and hosted by the Citizen's Band of Potawatomi.  One memory that will stick for all the participants is the oppressive heat.  Temperatures were in the high 90s and low 100s and the heat index was 105-100 every day.  That in any language is hot. One day the public announcer said "there are showers everywhere in Oklahoma, but not here.  It's suppose to be in 98 degrees today.  Welcome to our cold front."  It's the Oklahoma heat I remember from past visits.

On the way down I saw a Confederate flag flying in one yard. I thought I'm surely not that far south, although I get lost easily on the road.  I saw a Kickapoo Nation sign; a Sac and Fox Nation sign and a Iowa Nation sign and for a second, I thought I was north of my reservation, but I guess there are other bands of them, too.  We have nine bands of Potawatomi scattered all over.

The first two days I attended the leadership sessions which allowed me to get out of the intense heat.  Most of the days involved the chairs discussing some of their tribes accomplishments.  For instance, the Citizen Band have a RV park, golf course, a concrete business with 8 trucks, a grocery store that grosses $50 million a year, run their own clinic and are in the process of building a 240 room hotel by their casino.  Rocky Barrett said Shawnee has had three motels pop up after the casino went up.  He also said a kick-boxing event held at their casino was a huge draw and made a big profit for the tribe.

The tribes discussed some joint ventures.  One was a 7-tribe progressive game that has promise according to many in the room and forming a company that would replace worn out casino chairs among other ideas.  They scheduled a follow-up meeting September 21-22 in Michigan to discuss logistics of any joint ventures.  Another idea is to form a charter to self-fund medical insurance for tribal and casino employees.  Something like this could save a bundle of money for each tribe.  There were many good ideas discussed and some of the tribes are on the right track with their economic development ideas. 

In one session they asked me to talk about culture.  I talked in general terms and said there is no right way and no wrong way in our Indian religions.  I know better to go into details. I'm not a fool.  That's been done in the past and people get mad.  What's the fastest way to get people mad?  Talk about religion and politics. So I told them the most important thing in our lives is to give thanks to our Creator for what he has given us and that is through prayer.  Prayer helps us all during the good and bad times of life.  I talked a little about language and again it's not the method of learning but the most important thing is the ability to retain and use the words on a daily basis.  There were 125 people in the room so hopefully they took something away positive from the people who talked in this session, not necessarily from me.

While all this went on indoors, my grandson Pat ko Shuk swam in the Citizen Band pool and played putt-putt golf.  He did some fishing and said he almost caught a blue gill. One gal at the motel asked him "ya all code."  He didn't understand her southern accent.  I guess she was asking him if he was cold.  We got a kick out of that exchange.  The people in the area were friendly.  Since there are over 240,000 Indians living in the state, we weren't anything out of the ordinary.

The Citizen Band provided meals and had  pow-wow sessions to keep everybody occupied and allowed plenty of time for people to visit each other and/or to sneak off to the small casino located close by.  There was a golf tournament, horse shoe tournament, volleyball tournaments going on during the days.  All of this kept people busy and "by the end of the day," as Hot Rod Stewart sang one time, people were pretty exhausted and if it wasn't the activities then it had to be the heat because it was a scorcher.  I'm glad though that the gathering is headed toward Michigan next year where it should be much cooler than the last two years.

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