The Potawatomi Leadership Program has been in place since 2003 and serves to educate young tribal members on CPN and give them workplace experience and knowledge for their college and future careers. The program is only open to enrolled tribal members of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and is limited between 8 to 10 students. 

This year’s program began June 24 and ended on August 2, 2013. 

PLP students devote 6 weeks to work as interns at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation headquarters in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Students participated in group activities including a naming ceremony and spend time with each CPN program.

For 2013, the ten students ranged in age from 18-20 and came to CPN from Oklahoma, Maine, Colorado, Oregon, California, Louisiana and Texas.

This is the first in a two part series featuring the 2013 PLP members.

Anthony Lacombe is 20 years old and a member of the Ogee and Weld families from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Anthony is a junior at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

“I wanted to learn more about my culture and have a better understanding of my heritage. So far I have learned some of the language and I’ve learned a lot about how successful our tribe is.”

This is the second time that Anthony has been to Oklahoma.

“I hope that I can absorb as much information as possible and pass it on to my family back home. This program is still growing and getting better year after year. I enjoyed my experience.”

Anthony is a mechanical engineering major and hopes to work in the Gulf of Mexico as an underwater welder after graduation.

“It really surprised me how the tribe has grown in the last 27-30 years. I see no signs of it slowing down in growth either.”

Anthony will spend the rest of the summer at home and hopes to have time to go wakeboarding with friends and family.

Bradley Archer is 20 years old and a member of the Ogee and Weld families from Milliken, Colo. Bradley will begin his sophomore year at Western State Colorado University in the fall. 

“I was Interested in PLP program because I have been wanting to learn about my culture since my grandpa Clarence Smith told me about the Potawatomi Nation. After he passed away I knew it was time for me to see what the Potawatomi Nation was all about.”

Bradley had been to Shawnee twice for festival before joining the PLP program.

“I have learned that I am an Ogee/Weld and figured out how my family is ordered. Before this trip I had no idea how we were Potawatomi, but we just knew someone down the line was. Learning about the different departments is fascinating because of the way the tribe puts together many different pieces of a puzzle to make a beautiful nation.”

Bradley studies film and photography at Western State Colorado University and is a certified Master Electrician, an accolade he picked up as part of his college preparation.

“After college my goal is to be able to come back and give back to the tribe for giving me this wonderful opportunity to be a part of the Potawatomi Leadership Program. I respect everything the tribe is doing; just looking around at all the things the tribe is doing for a member is awesome in terms of how we are giving back.”

Bradley was named during his time in the 2013 PLP program. Mnokwabaset, his Potawatomi name, means “He seeks to prepare for Spring”.

Breeanna Hamilton is 20 years old and a member of the Johnson Family from Laverne, Calif. Breeanna is a junior at California State University and studies fine art.

“The cultural immersion is what interested me in the program. I didn’t know much about CPN when Ii applied and I had a desire to learn anything someone would teach me. I have learned so much over the course of the last three weeks, from subjects ranging from language to the inner workings of tribal government.”

This is her first time to visit Shawnee Okla., and the trip changed some of her perceptions about what life is like in Indian Country.

“In California, there are misconceptions about how Native Americans live, a lot of stereotypes about reservations. I knew that wasn’t true, but when we got here and I saw all the tribe’s businesses and services, it really was something I didn’t expect. CPN’s doing pretty good from what I see.”

“Eventually I hope to gain knowledge about my tribe that I can use for myself and teach to the other Potawatomi in my family so we may begin more traditions to pass on to the next generation.”

She says that eventually she would like to turn her academic training in fine arts into a career in body art.

Brian Wojahn is 19 years old and is a member of the Vieux family from Portland, Ore. He is currently a sophomore at Oregon State University.

“I was interested in the PLP because I knew it would be a wonderful opportunity to make something very special of this summer and additionally to learn about my ancestors. I knew that the PLP would offer me this gateway so I became very hopeful to be accepted to come along. In a broad sense, I have learned quite a range of information. Some of the things that I learned have included things like: how our enterprises work to generate us revenue, the services we offer to our tribe and the community, and how important our sovereignty is to our development.”

Brian has visited Shawnee numerous times to visit family in the area. 

“I hope to leave this experience with a deeper spiritual connection in myself due to our sweat, a deeper understanding of our history, some insight to the job world of CPN, and a little Potawatomi language along the way.”

Brian is an exercise and sports science major in a pre-physical therapy track. 

Emma Brant is 18 years old and is a member of the Ogee and Weld families from Taylor Lake Village, Texas. Emma will be attending The University of Tulsa as a freshman this fall.

“I was interested in the PLP program because I didn’t have any knowledge of the Potawatomi culture or any of my heritage. So far I have learned about pow-wows, my native language, and all of the different ways the tribe helps our members.”

This is Emma’s first trip to Shawnee.

“I am hoping to take back all of the traditions that I have learned and teach my family, who don’t know very much about our culture.”

Emma plans to become a speech pathologist and work with children in an elementary school.

“I loved my time here. Coming here I was very nervous and I know now that I made the right choice because of the cultural experience I’ve gained an all of the lifelong Potawatomi friends I now have.”

Emma will spend the rest of the summer in Texas working and getting ready for school.

“I was really surprised about how many departments there are and how big the tribe is. I had never been here and I wasn’t sure what to expect.”