WHAT IS THE POTAWATOMI LEADERSHIP PROGRAM?
The six-week Potawatomi Leadership Program brings a group of 8-10 promising young tribal members from around the world to Shawnee, Oklahoma to learn about the government, culture, and economic development of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. At its core, the Potawatomi Leadership Program strives to give interns an accurate perception of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation as a whole and cultivate talent from within to ensure that younger generations are prepared for a role in the future governance of their tribe.
WONDERING WHAT THE PLP IS REALLY LIKE?
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Here you will find almost everything you need to know about the Potawatomi Leadership Program!
A BRIEF HISTORY
A quick look at how this program came to be.
A discussion shared by the members of the 2003 Citizen Potawatomi Nation Business Committee sparked the idea for the Potawatomi Leadership Program. Though they expressed pride that the number of college scholarships provided for young tribal members had notably increased, they also recognized a cause for concern. Despite the growing population of tribal scholarship recipients, the leaders realized that few of the students had a strong grasp on their tribe's heritage, governance, or economic structures. In fact, encounters with several students had indicated that the majority knew little about the Tribe at all.
Considering the Tribe's prolonged history of removal, this lack of connection was not surprising. Following the Citizen Potawatomi Nation's removal from its original Great Lakes homeland in the 1830s and its purchase of a 900 square mile reservation in Oklahoma in the late 1800s, land runs and other pressures scattered tribal members throughout the United States and abroad. In modern times, roughly two-thirds of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation population resides outside of Oklahoma. This wide dispersal led to a literal disconnect for countless tribal members, many of whom had never traveled to Oklahoma and were physically separated from tribal headquarters by long distances. Furthermore, prior to the Citizen Potawatomi Nation's extensive constitutional reform passed in 2007, tribal members living outside of the former reservation in Oklahoma had no formal legislative representation and consequently enjoyed few opportunities to feel invested in their tribe. With these barriers to a tribal connection in place for such a long period of time, the young college students in 2003 were perhaps inevitably disengaged.
However, this issue posed a threat beyond a diminished sense of tribal identity. If the Tribe's young people lacked a foundational understanding of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, where would its future leaders come from? Only enrolled members of the Tribe are eligible for elected leadership. The Citizen Potawatomi Nation's current leaders, Chairman John "Rocky" Barrett and Vice-Chairman Linda Capps, have served in their positions since 1985 and 1989 respectively. As Chairman Barrett has said, "We can always hire specialists and the right technical staff. We can't hire leaders. Our leaders come from our youth, and it is our responsibility to prepare them." When tribal leaders begin to shift responsibility to younger generations, a passionate and knowledgeable leadership pool must be readily available. In 2003, the members of the Business Committee worried that the dearth of eligible potential leaders might impair the Citizen Potawatomi Nation's ability to govern successfully.
In response to the paucity of tribally-aware young people, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation established the Potawatomi Leadership Program in 2003 with the following mission: to educate, inform, and encourage qualified Potawatomi students and to develop within the tribal membership at large a more accurate perception of the tribe and its operations. Each summer since 2003, an average of seven students have traveled from as far as New Zealand to Shawnee, Oklahoma to learn about the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and develop as leaders.