Following a tumultuous year marked by the pandemic, 2021 brought productivity and uplifting news from Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Big developments ranged from new ways for Tribal members to connect digitally to an impactful agreement between local governments to improve the community’s future.
In late September, the City of Shawnee and the Nation signed an agreement forming Shawnee Aligned. The initiative developed a strong partnership for the betterment of greater Pottawatomie County, and both governments agreed to work cooperatively on water system improvements, fire and police protection, housing, transportation, economic development and more.
It also signaled the end of decades of legal proceedings, coming one day after the Shawnee City Commission voted unanimously to formally detach lands south of the North Canadian River. In 1961, former city representatives annexed large areas of the Nation’s trust land for development without the Tribe’s permission. The Shawnee Aligned initiative marks a turning point for Tribal-city relations in many ways. Visit shawneealigned.com for more information.
First National Bank & Trust Co. acquisition
The largest tribally-owned bank grew this summer when CPN’s First National Bank & Trust Co. acquired MidWest Community Financial Corp. and its subsidiary, The First State Bank. As Oklahoma’s largest banking merger and acquisition since 2016, it resulted in the expansion of FNBOK with branches now in Oklahoma City, Midwest City and Canute as well as a loan production office in Edmond. Its assets reach in excess of $700 million, making FNB one of the largest independent community banks in the state. Read about available services and branch locations at fnbokla.bank.
CPN Health Services vaccination drives
The beginning of the year brought with it COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. Only a few days after the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization in December, CPN Health Services began administering the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. CPNHS held drive-thru and walk-in clinics in the following months, quickly distributing the 10,000th dose in March. They continued to reach thousands of elders, patients, tribal members and the surrounding community throughout the rest of the year and began distributing boosters in September. Call 405-964-5770 for vaccine information.
2021 FireLake Fireflight Balloon Festival
Citizen Potawatomi Nation celebrated a return to community events with the 2021 FireLake Fireflight Balloon Festival in August. This year’s attractions brought out more than 20,000 attendees over two days, the most since it began in 2017. Twenty-three hot air balloons from across the country took to the skies throughout the weekend. Patrons enjoyed commercial and tethered rides, food trucks, evening balloon glows, carnival rides, the Tribe’s new splash pad, and live music, including Saturday night headliner and country music star Craig Morgan. Visit firelakeballoonfest.com for more information.
CPN Cultural Heritage Center website and Ancestors
The Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Cultural Heritage Center introduced a new website in the spring, giving Tribal members access to a new encyclopedia, archives, family manuscripts page, an interactive allotments map and veterans database. It also includes an improved language section with easier accessibility to resources for all ages as well as a section devoted to the CPN Eagle Aviary with biographies and more. Access it all at potawatomiheritage.com.
A new section of portal.potawatomi.org called Ancestors offers Tribal members the chance to build their family trees, access information about relatives, submit photos, and connect with other Tribal members on a social platform with the ability to exchange information.
2021 Tribal elections
This year’s elections included contests for Tribal Chairman, Districts 1 through 4 as well as approval of the annual budget and two CPN Supreme Court justice nominees. In-person voting occurred on June 26, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. with results announced during the annual General Council meeting later that afternoon.
Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett and District 4 Legislator Jon Boursaw retained their positions. District 2 Legislator Eva Marie Carney and District 3 Legislator Bob Whistler ran unopposed. Following a run-off election in August, CPN voters elected Alan Melot as District 1 legislator. Voters approved the budget, and both Supreme Court justice nominees were re-appointed. Read legislators’ biographies and columns at cpn.news/legislature.
ARPA and CARES Act
CPN began accepting applications for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act programs in June 2020 with two additional phases in July and October. The Tribe continued to fill requests in 2021, processing nearly 39,000 applications and awarding more than $40 million for elder housing, eviction prevention, student assistance, technology advancements and much more.
The Nation also began accepting applications for the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 in August. Tribal members enrolled prior to Feb. 1, 2021, qualify to apply for the personal assistance program. By September, CPN had awarded more than $31 million across the country and processed nearly 18,000 requests. The Tribe continues to accept applications. Read more at cpn.news/ARPA.
Following state congressional approval, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Ida’s Law into law in April. Named for Ida Beard, a missing Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes citizen, Senate Bill 172 directs funding to create a state database regarding missing and murdered Indigenous persons. It also implemented the Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons as a branch of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The office facilitates cooperation between state, tribal and federal authorities to institute best practices for the reduction of missing and murdered Native Americans in Oklahoma.
Michael John Kennedy Scholarship
The CPN Department of Education awarded the first Michael John Kennedy Scholarship this year. Given to a child or grandchild of a veteran, it provides an opportunity to recognize and honor Potawatomi military members while assisting the next generation. The department plans to award the scholarship funded by the estate of Vietnam War veteran Michael John Kennedy each fall. Read more at cpn.news/kennedy. Visit the Department of Education at cpn.news/education.
Potawatomi Fire basketball
In September, the Tribe announced the purchase of the Potawatomi Fire, a professional basketball team and member of The Basketball League. The Nation anticipates job creation and community outreach as the major advantages and goals of owning the team as well as providing affordable family fun for Pottawatomie County and the surrounding communities. The Fire will play home games at CPN’s FireLake Arena beginning in 2022. Read more about the announcement at cpn.news/firebasketball.