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04.14.16 – Luncheon Notes

SPOKES Notes written by Paul Arnold.

The meeting was wholly conducted by  the Grand Rapids Rotary Interact club and led by their President Brian Domanski. Will Berglund led the singing of “It’s a Wonderful World” and Austen Krauss led the invocation. Michael Kelsey welcomed guests and visiting Rotarians, including David Drummond from a Rotary Club in Belize. Two new members of the club were inducted, including Joseph Biermacher and Steven Starnes. Joseph is with Lighthouse Insurance and Steven is with Grand Wealth Management. Derek Aten announced the result of the basketball challenge. Lisa Nelson from Chuck Caldwell’s office won the challenge and the money will be donated to the Rotary Foundation. Derek also announced the winner of the Service-Above-Selfie award which went to Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities. We were all invited to the official award presentation at an upcoming Griffins hockey game. Mark Potter promoted two Community Engagement projects: Indian Trails Camp work project on April 23 and Feeding America at Union HS on April April 25. Interact member Austen Krauss invited us to attend a fundraising dinner for The Potter’s House middle school.

Easton Schultz introduced Homer Mandoka, our keynote speaker for the day. Easton, who is native American did a job shadow with Homer, who is the Chairman of Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi as well as Chair of the United Tribes of Michigan. Easton noted that Homer was named a National Tribal Leader of the Year in 2014.

Homer showed a brief video that promoted Native American pride and was critical of the Washington NFL team’s mascot. He explained the the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi is one of twelve tribes in Michigan. The tribal organization acts much like a county government and is concerned with the social welfare of it’s members. Many live in the Pine Creek Reservation south of Battle Creek. The history of the Potawatomi in Michigan is highlighted by the forced “Trail of Tear” which relocated thousands of tribe members from Michigan to Kansas in 1838. Recent historical highlights include the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 in which government agencies would  enter into contracts with, and make grants directly to, federally recognized Indian tribes. The Nottawaseppi Huron Band wrote up it’s constitution in 1979 and was recognized the the Federal Government in 1995. In 2007 and 2008, two parcels of land were put into Federal Trust for the tribe.

During the extensive Q & A portion of the talk, Homer answered that mental health issues were a concern and that more Federal aid would be helpful. The Potawatomi bands in Canada have a more difficult time than the U.S. bands. The casino near Battle Creek that the tribe runs required a great deal of time and legal resources. The Federal Government extensive requirements demand responsible reporting and forces the tribe to “really have it’s act together” in order to run the casino. The FireKeepers casino hires a management company that is fully investigated by the US Government. The Nottawaseppi pay them 26% of the profits. Other tribes pay as high as 50%. When the tribe was recognized in 1979, there were only eight speakers of the native language. The tribe encourages the preservation of it’s history and spiritual practices through cultural projects, conferences and pow-wows. Since 1924, both women and Native Americans were guaranteed the right to vote. Small business entrepreneurship is not discouraged. The tribes are mostly self-governing, including economic development initiatives. The burden of proof for tribal membership is different in the various tribes. The Nottawaseppi rely on the Taggart role of 1904. A one-quarter blood-line is sufficient for tribal membership. Even though the tribe is in competition with other bands running casinos in the state, there is generally good cooperation. Homer admitted that the tribe is a bit behind in pursuing other economic opportunities beyond the casino although they are committed to sourcing as much locally as possible. The degree that individuals in the tribe wish to assimilate is a personal decision. There is a great amount of diversity among tribal members with many having black and hispanic ancestors as well. Homer discussed his involvement in the Safe Place shelter in Battle Creek and noted that the tribe is involved in a golf tournament that provides funds for this and other non-profits in the area. Homer concluded his remarks with an answer about the naming of sports teams and contends that calling a team the “Red Skins” sends the wrong message and is usually hurtful.

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