Welcome to the home of Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation

A Vision of Renewal

Basketball at the 2nd cluster.
Basketball at the 2nd cluster.

Community Development

This economic development report is an ongoing project of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and will change as new development occurs in the future. This report will include all projects completed by the Nation and can and will serve as a benchmark for economic progress on the reservation. The long-term goal of the current tribal government is the development of resources that lead to a higher standard of living, increased cultural vitality and greater freedom to make choices concerning the Potawatomi future.

Most sources state that economic development is a broad and often misunderstood concept. This is because it means different things to different people. Some of the common measurements and key indicators of economic development are:

  • Increasing employment
  • Increasing mean or median income
  • Enhancing the overall quality of life

A broader understanding of economic development that includes the above components is increasing long-term self-sufficiency of individuals, families, communities and institutions.

The Potawatomi General Council has mandated that 16% of all gaming revenues go toward economic development. The process will not happen overnight.

To reach these goals, a comprehensive planning and management strategy, with respect to tribal government operations and effectiveness of services, will soon be developed. This is imperative since the Potawatomi General Council has mandated that 16% of all gaming revenues go toward economic development. The process will not happen overnight. Early planning cites a need to face a range of critical challenges, such as providing housing, creating economic development opportunities and building in sustainable ways. The creation of an infrastructure that has constructed or upgraded roads, water and sewer systems, electrical grids, fiber optic, and phone systems on the Prairie Band Potawatomi Reservation has been a priority. This has provided an atmosphere conducive to long-term growth and prosperity for the Nation.

This report is the contintuation of a strategic plan for the Potawatomi Nation. This will eventually involve short, mid-range and long-term planning. The plan includes:

  • Governmental infrastructure
  • Social services
  • Human resources (people)
  • Constitutional reform
  • Development of legal resources

We will explore other projects that have worked on other reservations and will hold meetings and develop surveys with our tribal membership to learn their desires. In addition, we will recruit the services of economists, engineers, lawyers and community development planners to garner project input.

The leading expert on Indian economic development, Stephen Cornell stated...

If Indian nations wish to retain control over their own affairs, if they wish to develop sustainable, productive economies, if they wish to build productive, mutually respectful relationships with the states, they have to back up their sovereign rights and powers with good governance. They have to put in place governing institutions that are capable of exercising sovereignty effectively. This means providing more governmental stability, de-politicizing court systems and business management, building efficient governmental bureaucracies, and generally thickening the capacity of tribes to act effectively in their own interest.

In doing this, tribal governments are laying the foundation for new, productive, mutually respectful state relationships and are dispelling the myth of ineffective tribal self-government.

It's a proven fact that when tribes initiate sustainable development, they tend to accomplish related goals.

A partnership with outside governments is a viable vision since most economic projects such as roads, police and fire protection benefit all people living within the reservation structure, both Indian and non-Indian. It's a proven fact that when tribes initiate sustainable development, they tend to accomplish related goals by:

  • better maintaining roads
  • contributing to off-reservation schools
  • decreasing the burdens associated with poverty
  • employing non-Indians
  • contributing to greater state income tax withholdings

The more decisions tribes make for themselves, the more likely states are to benefit from the long-overdue invigoration of Indian reservation economies -- economies that have been, to date, the most stubbornly resistant pockets of poverty in America.

It is vital to formulate all development plans with consideration toward how they impact the overall society. The potential exists for economic development to strengthen and further the tribal culture. Thus, economic development is the engine for overall social development and a higher standard of living.

Examples of actual and potential tribal community reservation projects as a result of gaming listed in 2006:

  • Land Acquisition (ongoing)
  • Government Center (1999)
  • Senior Citizen Building (2000)
  • Fire Station (2001)
  • Police Station (1998)
  • Convenience Store (1999)
  • Craft Shop
  • Remodel/Expand Bingo Hall (2000)
  • Addition to ChildcareCenter (2001)
  • Expansion to Food Distribution Warehouse (2001)
  • Build out of Government Center Lower Level (2001)
  • Wastewater Treatment Facility – GovernmentCenter Complex (2001)
  • Elder Housing (2001-3)
  • Tribal Member Housing (2000-03)
  • Five-Year Road Paving Project (2001-6)
  • Boys and Girls Club Expansion (2002-03)
  • Maintenance Building (2002)
  • Lands Management Building (2002)
  • Installation of Fiber Optic Cable from GovernmentCenter to K-Road (2002)
  • Improved Tribal Services
  • 1,300 New Reservation Jobs (casino and tribal government)
  • Water System Upgrades (2000-3)
  • Waste Water Treatment Plant, K Road (2002)
  • Renovated Pow-Wow Grounds/Park (2002)
  • Improvements to Reservation Churches
  • Major Casino/Hotel Expansion (2003-04)
  • Two Eight-Unit Apartment Buildings (2002-03)
  • Twelve Family Duplexes (2002-03)
  • US-75 & 150 Road Interchange
  • Social Services Building
  • Home Down Payment Assistance (2003)
  • Home Renovation/Repair (2003)
  • Relocation (2003)
  • 15 SeniorGardenApartments (2003)
  • Four Manufactured Homes for Transitional Housing Plan (2003)
  • 12 Manufactured Homes (2003)
  • Health Clinic (2006)
  • Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment Plant
  • 150 and Highway 75 Development
  • Golf Course
  • Interpretative Site
  • Museum

Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Goals

The overall tribal goal is the development of resources leading to a higher standard of living, increased cultural vitality and greater freedom to make choices concerning the Potawatomi future.

Short-Term Goals (3-5 years)

  • Building improvements/upgrades
  • Road Improvements
  • Water utility/utility systems, electrical grids, phone system improvements
  • Establish a planning department
    • Director, two research staff members and a secretary
  • Housing Plan
  • Education Plan
  • Investment Plan
  • Government Department Operation Plan
  • Enterprise Marketing Plan

Mid-Range Goals (5-10 years)

  • Investment Program
  • Attract/develop businesses
    • 150 and 75 Highway development
    • Golf Course
    • Museum
  • Seek to generate business partnerships on the reservation
  • Additional Housing
  • Education

Long-Term Goals (10-20 years)

  • Long-Range Investment Plan
  • Attract/develop businesses

20-Year Goal

  • Develop a sustainable economy by virtue of businesses/investments.

The Importance of Planning

A recent letter to the editor of a Kansas newspaper described a city as having the following problems: a poor administration, a lack of an adequate infrastructure and a lack of long range planning. The letter's author also stated, "It is all the city can do to manage the matters of the day, let alone provide for the economic growth in the future." Such problems are often associated with Indian reservations but this, too, can change.

It takes time to develop a long-range vision. In the interim, there are many lost tribal opportunities such as housing and economic opportunities. A recent economic conference said a planning process should include:

  • Establishing a planning department that works for the Nation
  • Dealing with the need to include specific land-use
  • Dealing with planning conflicts caused by outdated processes
  • Gaining support of planning goals for the tribal departments and tribal members
  • Defining a Tribal Planning Department rather than a Western European model of planning

A tribal planner must understand the responsibility that everything he does will echo through time. It is a serious responsibility ... to maintain cultural integrity.

She has to understand the people and their history, as well as the history of the land and the community it supports. He must understand what makes a society functional in regard to past tribal planning. A basic tribal credo is to maintain cultural integrity. Not understanding these cultural segments creates intervention.

Education and training of tribal members was another common conference theme. "Invest in the future," said one attendee. "It's our children. Teach them the tools they will need." Today, there are ample resources to accomplish this goal.

Any plan has to build on the tribal culture and identity. A plan can only work when there is serious community input -- a plan that is explained and revised as needed. Most importantly, tribal politics should be kept to a minimum. One way to avoid tribal politics, and to sustain the momentum necessary for enduring change, is to solicit input from tribal members through meetings and surveys.

Through an approach that develops a people's vision, it's possible to create a tribal future. But there was one warning: adoption of a plan is great but some tribes are struggling with implementation.


Obstacles to Development

Economic development is a difficult task anywhere in the world. In Indian country, however, self-determined economic development is a major problem: the odds are hardly promising; the effort required is tremendous and the results are at best uncertain. A report by Stephan Cornell states:

"The obstacles are daunting. Tribes face a host of problems. Some of these problems are shared with other would-be developers -- countries, cities, states -- while some are specific to Indian tribes."

Among the obstacles often listed in reports and studies, or mentioned in Indian Country as explanations of continuing reservation poverty, are these:

  • Tribes and individuals lack access to financial capital.
  • Tribes and individuals lack human capital (education, skills, technical expertise) and the means to develop it.
  • Reservations lack effective planning.
  • Reservations are subject to too much planning and not enough action.
  • Reservations are poor in natural resources.
  • Reservations have natural resources, but lack sufficient control over them.
  • Reservations are disadvantaged by their distance from markets and the high costs of transportation.
  • Tribes cannot persuade investors to locate on reservations, owing to intense competition from non-Indian communities.
  • Federal and state policies are counterproductive and/or discriminatory.
  • The Bureau of Indian Affairs is inept, corrupt and/or uninterested in reservation development.
  • Non-Indian outsiders control or confound tribal decision-making.
  • Tribes have unworkable and/or externally-imposed systems of government.
  • Tribal politicians and bureaucrats are inept or corrupt.
  • On-reservation factionalism destroys stability in tribal decisions.
  • The instability of tribal government keeps outsiders from investing.
  • Reservation saving rates are low.
  • Entrepreneurial skills and experience are scarce.
  • Non-Indian management techniques won't work on the reservation.
  • Non-Indian management techniques will work, but are absent.
  • Tribal cultures get in the way.
  • The long-term effects of racism have undermined tribal self-confidence.
  • Alcoholism and other social problems are destroying tribes' human capital.