Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s extensive network of governmental, cultural and financial departments as well as its enterprises and services are made possible by the dedicated work of over 2,000 employees. The Hownikan spoke with four of these employees about what it takes to keep the Nation running smoothly and what it means to work for the Tribe.
Melissa Creek is the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) Manager for FireLake Casino and the Grand Casino Hotel & Resort, as well as the Operational Compliance Manager for FireLake Casino. Tonya Jarvis is a Benefits Coordinator in Nation’s Human Resources Department, and Robert Price is a Jr. Developer within the Information Technology Department. Senta Rowan manages grants and the indirect cost processes in the Tribe’s Accounting Department.
Melissa Creek is the BSA Manager and Operational Compliance Manager for FireLake Casino and the BSA Manager for the Grand Casino Hotel & Resort.
“I implement and monitor policies and procedures to ensure compliance with Tribal, Federal and State gaming laws, rules and regulations,” Creek told the Hownikan. “I also audit and input all Bank Secrecy Act and Federal Tax Reporting forms for accuracy and completion.”
Passed in 1970, the Bank Secrecy Act works to deter money laundering and terrorism financing, among other criminal activity. It requires all banks and financial institutions to follow recordkeeping and reporting protocols and established the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to oversee its operations. Casinos, which often provide financial services to patrons, are among the non-bank financial institutions required to comply with BSA protocols under Title 31 of the act. BSA compliance protects the casinos, patrons and community as well as the revenue stream for the Tribe that gaming provides.
Creek has worked for CPN for 26 years. During this time, she has adapted to working with strict deadlines and great precision — an environment that has taught her self-discipline.
Above all, Creek is passionate about protecting the Tribe’s assets and greatly values her role.
“It is a privilege to be a part of an organization that helps the community,” she said.
Tonya Jarvis is a Benefits Coordinator within the CPN Human Resources Department.
She liaises between employees, providers and brokers to facilitate benefits for the Nation’s employees and also assists employees in navigating these resources.
“We offer Group Health Insurance to full-time employees; Teladoc Health Services and an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that offers all employees access to medical and behavioral health attention; 401(k); and several voluntary benefits such as short-term disability, life insurance, accident and cancer benefits, and LegalShield (an online legal service),” Jarvis said.
Jarvis also handles on-the-job injury claims, Family Medical Leave and coronavirus quarantine protocols.
She enjoys helping Tribal employees and Legislators with claims issues, changes to their benefits, questions and more.
“I always say, ‘It’s never a dull moment in HR,’” Jarvis said. “We must all remind ourselves that we don’t always know what people are going through and where they have come from. We should always be gentle, kind and helpful.”
Jarvis celebrated 17 years with the Tribe in April.
“I have experienced the growth of the Tribe from 600 employees in 2006 up to 2,500 employees pre-pandemic,” she said. “It has been both amazing and exciting to be part of this enterprise-driven Nation. I feel like part of the CPN family.”
Senta Rowan is the IDC/Grant Management Accountant for Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She ensures that federal funds are spent and reported correctly.
“Maintaining compliance helps assure CPN continues to receive federal funding,” Rowan said. “I also want departments to recognize that they must spend their grant dollars. If we do not spend all the money from a particular grant, that money must be returned to the federal government.”
Rowan aims to use federal dollars whenever possible rather than non-federal funds to make purchases.
The Indirect Cost Proposal process through the Interior Business Center allows the Nation to charge federal programs for administrative costs that otherwise would not be covered. Though lengthy and tedious, Rowan takes on this process with commitment and satisfaction, achieving full funding for everything in the Nation’s Indirect Cost Pool.
Rowan attends conferences to stay up to date on current guidelines and has spoken on panels for the P.L. 102-477 Program. The program allows tribes to integrate employment, training and related services into a single program with a single budget, a financially advantageous arrangement for tribes.
Rowan has worked for CPN for 12 years. She draws a sense of purpose in her job from the bigger picture of which she is a part — a family with a rich culture and history.
“I have learned what a deep sense of community this Tribe has,” she said. “I am very proud to share with people that I work for Citizen Potawatomi Nation.”
Robert Price joined the CPN Information Technology Department in late 2022 as a Customer Service Technician and was swiftly promoted to Jr. Developer in January 2023.
“My role assists with the accessibility of knowledge and resources, both within and outside of the Tribe,” Price explained.
His work includes upkeep and edits of various websites, applications and programs throughout the Tribe and its departments and enterprises.
Price is motivated by “the basic truth that what I am doing matters and impacts people. It assists with achieving the goals of the Tribe, be they big or small.”
Though working across such a large and complex group of departments and enterprises, he finds the Tribe extremely cohesive — something he is impressed by and enjoys supporting.
“I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to work within a tribe with deep culture and ties to its roots,” Price said. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever worked with before, and honestly, it’s something I truly doubt I’d find anywhere else. There’s a lot of opportunity here and even more support.”