I hope that each of you had a joyous Christmas and New Year and that you took the time to connect with your families and share in our Potawatomi traditions. As we begin 2014 we can reflect on the joys and sorrows on the previous year. Although I have always enjoyed serving as your Tribal Chairman, 2013 was a particularly good and prosperous year for the Nation and I cherish each moment serving the Potawatomi more and more.
We have big plans for 2014 and I expect that we will see another prosperous year. You can be proud in knowing that the Citizen Potawatomi Nation is leading the way with our tribal enterprises and self-governance work. I encourage each of you to reflect on the joys and challenges of the previous year and plan for 2014. I would like to take this opportunity myself to reflect on some of the great things that the Citizen Potawatomi Nation has accomplished in 2013.
- In January we completed work on the CPN Gym, and we officially opened the doors in March. The new building is home to our Tribal Youth Program, The P.L.A.C.E. The new building and program provide a safe environment for youth after regular school hours, during various school breaks and during the summer months. Youth can participate in additional educational activities and opportunities available to youth between the ages of 10 and 18.
- Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Women, Infant and Children program moved into a new 4,000 square foot building. The additional space allows CPN WIC to continue to provide supplemental food and nutrition services to participants in a more comfortable and confidential atmosphere. The new location includes a larger waiting area with a play room, a private breastfeeding room, WIC Café and additional office and storage space.
- With the expansion of our casino and hotel we have already added more than 100 new jobs. We are the largest employer in Pottawatomie County by more than five times and will add another 200 jobs in 2014. Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s newest resort and tourism destination is complete with the addition of the new 14-story hotel tower with 262 suites, adding a total of 144,000 square feet to the property. The Grand Hotel includes a spa, meeting and convention space and will offer an outdoor pool and lounge summer 2014.
- We also opened two new event centers in 2013. The Grand Event Center will be offer 2,000 seats and more than 15,000 square feet of concert space. Grand Casino Hotel and Resort will also add two dining options, Flame, a Brazilian steakhouse and The Grand Café, a 24-hour American diner. The dining venues will open Jan. 2014. The current entertainment space at Grand Casino Hotel and Resort opened in Oct. 2006 and has seen a diverse group of award-winning musicians and comedians. Among the most popular shows were Gretchen Wilson, Merle Haggard, Wayne Newton, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy. Firelake Arena will offer 5,000 seats and more than 52,000 square feet of event space for concerts, conventions and community events. Firelake Arena joins other Citizen Potawatomi Nation enterprises, including Firelake Entertainment Center, The Ball Fields at Firelake, Firelake Bowling Center, Firelake Golf Center, Firelake Mini-Putt and Firelake Discount Foods, to add to the diverse Firelake region of entertainment options.
- Our Tribal Vice-Chairman, Linda Capps, was recognized as The Tecumseh Chamber of Commerce Person of the Year. She does most of the good work for CPN and the community and I get to take the credit. Migwetch to Vice-Chairman Capps for her hard work and dedication. I am proud to serve with her and am pleased she is seeking re-election.
- The Ball Fields at FireLake opened in March 2012 and have exceeded our expectations. In 2013 they hosted more than 30 events, including college competitions, The Jim Thorpe Games and the USSA World Series.
- We are setting the example for other tribal governments and municipalities with our water plan. A grant from Administration for Native American’s, along with in-kind services from the United States Geological Services and tribal funds, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation is conducting a three year comprehensive water study. The study will be complete in 2014 and the tribe will create an all-inclusive water plan to sustainably manage growth and water resources within its jurisdiction.
- In April CPN and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Raptor View Research Institute of Missoula and Comanche Nation Sia have joined forces to rehabilitate, release and track a juvenile bald eagle. Wadase has done well on her own and visits our Eagle Aviary often. We have enjoyed tracking her progress and watching her grow.
- Our Cultural Heritage Center continued to improve the exhibits on the museum floor and opened two new ones in 2013, the first being the “Seven Fires” exhibit. The new exhibit is updated and allows for 360 degree accessibility and additional details and portrays the Seven Fires Prophecy, a key part of the Citizen Potawatomi oral culture. Another new exhibit is the Marine Exhibit, which depicts a Potawatomi man spearfishing from a birch bark canoe on a Great Lakes waterway. The display contains detailed examples of tools and techniques used by the Potawatomi to survive and prosper in their traditional homes near the Great Lakes.
- Participants from the CPN Child Development Center competed in the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair and won first place in the video competition for a video they submitted of them acting out the traditional Potawatomi story, “Turtle goes to war.”
- In May many of our neighbors were impacted by the tornadoes that ripped across Okla. I am proud that our Nation and its employees stepped up to help within hours of the event. Our emergency management team assisted first responders, our employment and training program coordinated a supply distribution site and our enterprises found creative ways to donate supplies and money to assist the families in need.
- In June, as we do every year, we welcomed thousands of Potawatomi home for the Family Reunion Festival. More than 5,000 people from 39 states descended on the town of Shawnee the weekend of June 28-30 to celebrate their Citizen Potawatomi Nation heritage. The annual Family Reunion Festival attracts people from all across the United States and has a considerable economic impact on Shawnee.
- The Citizen Potawatomi Nation has a $522 million economic impact in the state of Okla. for 2012. This economic impact includes $68 million in wages and benefits, directly supporting more than 2,200 jobs, and purchases contributing to a $377 million impact on the local economy. There is an old adage that ‘a rising tide raises all ships.’ The Citizen Potawatomi Nation plays a major role in the success of Pottawatomie County and the state of Okla. We are a lasting partner of the state and community. Our success is good for both our tribe and for our Okla. neighbors.
- Citizen Potawatomi Nation and United States Congressman James Lankford gathered to dedicate the Iron Horse Bridge and celebrate an important milestone in the construction of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Iron Horse Industrial Park. After several years of planning and research, Iron Horse is getting closer to becoming a reality. The engineering is complete for phase one of construction and Arkansas-Oklahoma Railroad has completed restoration of Railroad Bridge crossing the North Canadian River. The vision for the Iron Horse Industrial Park is to provide a prime industrial location for both tribally-owned businesses and private companies. This will further diversify the tribal economy by providing assembly and manufacturing jobs. We are pleased to celebrate this important milestone with A-OK Railroad and look forward to the next phase of this project.
- Citizen Potawatomi Nation was one of three American Indian tribal government programs to be selected by the Harvard Project’s Honoring Nations program as All-Stars from the family of 112 outstanding programs that have been selected as honorees since 1999. The Honoring Nations program identifies, celebrates, and shares excellence in American Indian tribal governance. At the heart of Honoring Nations is the principle that tribes themselves hold the key to generating social, political, cultural, and economic prosperity and that self-governance plays a crucial role in building and sustaining strong, healthy Indian nations. CPN was recognized for the Constitution Reform Project, which resulted in a new constitution that provides the critical foundations for tribal political sovereignty, economic development, social well-being, and cultural preservation.
- The Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s clinics, after a review from the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Healthcare, have received zero deficiencies for its health care programs and earned accreditation. The audits, self-imposed by health providers, seek to identify areas of their services that need improvement. We are very pleased with the hard work and dedication of our employees of CPN Health Programs. This accreditation and audit show that we are providing the very best health care possible to our tribal members. We should all be very proud of the employees and health care providers for our Nation.
- Citizen Potawatomi Nation opened a new convenience store, FireLake Corner Store, at the intersection of Hardesty Road and Gordon Cooper Drive. The 5,000 square foot store replaces the convenience store previously located on the north corner of to FireLake Discount Foods. FireLake Corner Store is 24/7 and has 16 fueling stations. FireLake Corner Store offers 100 percent unleaded gasoline, diesel, fresh gourmet coffee, more than 20 flavors of fountain beverages, an ice cold beer cave, food concessions and cigarettes and smokeless tobacco items.
- In November we finalized our plans for an MBA program at Oklahoma Baptist University and signed a collaborative agreement between the two organizations to provide a corporate online MBA program for the CPN to offer to its members, employees and constituents.
- The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada has recognized Citizen Potawatomi Nation for excellence in accounting and financial reporting. The award for fiscal year 2012 recognizes the tribe’s adherence to financial transparency and full accountability of the CPN financial resources. This award confirms that we’re taking good care of CPN’s money and meeting the highest financial reporting standards. Our tribal citizens can remain confident that we’re being accountable and handling their money in the most transparent and responsible way possible.
- For 2013 we received about $43.6 million in grants from different Federal Agencies, including a grant for a Workforce Development Center, CPNPD officers and equipment and a tribal youth mentor program. These grant awards are, in large part, due to the hard work and diligence of our Directors and Tribal Self-Governance department. Migwetch to them for securing funding for these programs and projects.
We were able to accomplish these things because of the hard work and dedication of our tribal employees and because of the steady leadership of our Tribal Legislature. Again, it is my honor to serve as your Tribal Chairman and I look forward to accomplishing this, and more, in 2014.
John Barrett (Keweoge)