Tribal members who are 18-20 years old are selected for the six-week program based on academic qualifications, a series of essays, and a letter of recommendation. Arriving before the annual Family Reunion Festival, students spend their workdays visiting tribal directors and hearing employees explain their role. Between departmental sessions, students tour tribal enterprises and attend board meetings. In the evenings and on weekends, students connect culturally by attending language classes, participating in tribal ceremonies, and learning traditional crafts. Additionally, students who have not yet received a Potawatomi name will have the opportunity to do so. By the end of the program, the students have gained a comprehensive knowledge of individual tribal components as well as how they fit into the larger puzzle of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
As potential leaders of the tribe, students not only learn how the Tribe operates but also undergo extensive leadership training. Students begin the summer by taking an assessment to discover their individual strengths, and recurring workshops help them understand how best to develop those skills. Weekly talking circles offer a space to process their experience and tackle complex issues such as the intricacies of cultural identity, the qualities of effective leadership, and the promotion of tribal engagement. Additionally, Citizen Potawatomi Nation government officials such as the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and legislators share their unique perspectives on tribal leadership with the students.
Besides attending scheduled events and sessions, Potawatomi Leadership Program participants will be expected to write three short papers. At the end of the program, students leave their own mark on the Tribe by applying this abstract knowledge to a practical project, for which they design a creative way to tangibly enhance, develop, or add to the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. In a final program presentation, students have the opportunity to share their final reflections and completed projects with tribal leadership. (Check out the final presentations here.)
Together, these components make up the Potawatomi Leadership Program. Students leave the program equipped with the knowledge and tools to remain engaged in the Tribe. For some, the experience will serve as preparation for future tribal governance, which strengthens the hope that the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s sound leadership will continue into future generations.