(Hello my friends),
The tribe has had a busy summer. In addition to our Family Reunion Festival and tribal elections, we also hosted our first balloon festival and traveled to Walpole Island for the Gathering of Potawatomi Nations. The activities for Gathering take a lot of planning, and I’m thankful for the hospitality we received from the people of Walpole Island. The next Gathering will be held closer to home in Kansas, and I’m hopeful that we’ll see many Citizen Potawatomi Nation members there.
Though it was our first time to host such a large event for the community, we have received numerous compliments about FireLake Fireflight Balloon Festival. We had more than 20 balloons, and although the weather didn’t fully cooperate, we still welcomed more than 15,000 people to the tribal grounds over the weekend. Migwetch to our committee for planning such a successful event.
Our tourism operations continue to boost tribal, municipal and state economies. Tribes in Oklahoma have paid more than $1 billion in “exclusivity fees” to the state since compacts were signed. The most recent report from the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association recognizes that tribal gaming has a $7.2 billion impact in the state annually.
In rural areas, our gaming and tourism jobs are some of the only employment opportunities around. We also are the largest employer in Pottawatomie County with our 2,400 employees. Our economic development also has helped to create another 2,000 jobs locally. All this means that cities like Shawnee, where the population and development had been declining, are now seeing steady increases in both.
As I’ve said many times, a rising tide lifts all boats. With the growth of the rural areas around us, there will be tribal growth as well, meaning we will have the opportunity to create more tribal jobs and provide more services to our members. That’s why I’ve been requesting that you contact us to let us know your professional skills — when it’s time, we want to fill as many jobs with qualified Potawatomi as possible. We can only do that if we know who they are!
As I’m writing this, our tribal members in Texas are beginning the process of cleaning up after Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey. We have several hundred tribal members in the federally declared disaster areas. We’re hopeful they all are safe.
As always, thank you for the privilege of serving as your tribal leader.
John “Rocky” Barrett
(He Leads Them Home)