District 4 candidates

Jon E. Boursaw – Wetase Mkoh (Brave Bear)

What would make you an effective Tribal leader?

I have had career of positions that have prepared me to be an effective Tribal Leader. I am a retired Colonel of the US Air Force where I served on active duty for over 24 years. I served as Commander in 4 of my assignments and as a Staff Officer in several key positions. Most recently I have had 17 years’ experience in senior positions in Native American Governments. Originally, I served as the Executive Director for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Mayetta, KS for 6 ½ years where I supervised 32 Tribal Programs. This gave me firsthand knowledge on how tribes are supported by federal funding and grants. This was followed by being asked to take on the position of Director of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Culture Heritage Center in Shawnee, OK for 2 ½ years. My first assignment was to lead the effort in creating the Tribal Veterans Wall of Honor. Finally, I have served as the Dist 4 Legislative Representative for eight years. I have worked very hard to make myself available to the CPN members in the District. I have kept them apprised of items of interest, upcoming events, and benefits such as the CARES assistance. As a result of my time in these two positions I am very familiar with the major activities, programs, and projects ongoing within the Nation. I have developed and maintained a good relationship with the CPN Program Directors. Though out all of this time I have regularly attended and participated in the CPN Annual Family Reunions and the Gathering of Potawatomi.

How do you plan to engage Tribal citizens?

I plan to continue to hold annual District meetings at various locations in the District. I will attend the monthly Elders Potluck Luncheons held in Rossville. I will use my monthly Hownikan column as a way to keep the members aware of new developments, upcoming tribal functions and give recognition of individual achievements by CPN members. I will continue to expand my email list of members in the District which allows me to contact members directly about Tribal activities, upcoming events and other items of interest. Finally, I plan to continue to hold regularly scheduled hours in my office in Topeka. This allows to me to directly assist members with topics such enrollment, mail-order pharmacy, some housing issues, and health aids.

In your opinion, what is the most pressing Tribal issue currently?

To me the most pressing issue is the future cost of providing the benefits and services we enjoy today that are funded through Tribal revenue. With the substantial growth of new members over the past couple of years how are we going to fund the increase costs in the future for benefits such as scholarships, mail order pharmacy, health aids, burial fund and even the Hownikan? We must continue to expand the Tribe’s economic development efforts while ensuring those we have and those in the future are generating lasting revenue for the Tribe.

Photo by Dave Leiker

Elexa “Amo” Dawson

What would make you an effective Tribal leader?

My campaign is a response to a spoken need in the community for closer connection to our tribe and our heritage, so we can be whole, healthy people in the present. Physical and mental wellbeing are our birthright as Potawatomi people, yet our communities struggle with dis-ease and disconnection. I believe our culture, including our foods, language, and spiritual practices, is the path forward for our people. 

I plan to create space for community and connection on a regular basis. One of the primary ways we learn our culture is from our elders, but too often age groups are broken apart. How do our kids know that elders eat first if they’ve never been to a meal where that tradition is practiced? Mainstream culture taught us to hide elders away and consider communication with them a charity. That is not our way. We can gather together as multi-generational families and see how that cultural practice benefits us all.

Financially, I believe we should be investing in our culture and our people. We are overconsuming as US citizens, creating more than our share of waste. I do not believe that industrial growth and the pollution that comes with it are wise investments for our people. I believe we can be simultaneously prosperous and strong in our values as people of the fire, stewards of the land.

How do you plan to engage Tribal citizens? 

My priority as Citizen Potawatomi Nation District 4 legislator will be community. Our families are spread across the state, and we need regular, accessible, in-person (when safe) community gatherings to strengthen our community in Kansas. Did you know that there are more CPN members living in Kansas than enrollees of any other nation? We are many, and our alliances can be strong if we invest in ourselves, and in each other.

I join with many other Tribal leaders in calling for all CPN members to make learning our language a priority. It’s hard to learn language without practicing it. Meeting and prioritizing language and culture will strengthen our Nation.

In your opinion, what is the most pressing Tribal issue currently?

I would like to see more people claiming their heritage and being proud to be Potawatomi in their daily lives today. What does that mean? What makes us Potawatomi? What are the elements of our culture? Where can we practice our language? How do we honor our ancestors today? These are questions our people are asking, and I want to explore the answers by diving into our culture through language, food and togetherness. I think we can only know who we are in the context of community. 

Travel restrictions prevented the 2020 Potawatomi Gathering. Having been to a few of these Gatherings, I can say what a loss for our community that was. As a legislator, I will support all citizens traveling to Gathering, and hold regional gatherings independently to keep our culture alive.