Citizen Potawatomi Nation took a huge step forward in March with the signing of a compact with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

CPN Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett and Arlando Teller, assistant secretary for the U.S. Office of Tribal Government Affairs, inked the agreement Tuesday, March 5, in the Long Room of the Cultural Heritage Center near Shawnee, Oklahoma. CPN is only the third tribe in the country to have this sort of agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“CPN has made vital contributions in building and maintaining Pottawatomie County roads and other transportation infrastructure in our communities,” Chairman Barrett said. “This compact allows us more flexibility and gives us the ability to continue investing in improvements for the safety of our Nation, our neighbors and visitors traveling through our lands.”

The compact sets up guidelines for how CPN uses federal dollars for transportation projects. It will streamline the approval process, allowing the Tribe to be more efficient with projects such as road repairs.

“This Compact reflects the tribal commitment to plan, design, construct, operate, and maintain transportation facilities, transit systems, and related infrastructure to promote the health and safety of citizens of the Nation, other residents, and visitors traveling on and through the Nation’s lands,” reads the introduction to the compact.

The compact will grant CPN “greater control, flexibility, and decision-making authority” for decisions regarding Tribal transportation programs, services, functions and activities. The compact initially provides nearly $4 million in Fiscal Year 2024 to support CPN’s current and ongoing transportation and transit operations and projects.

“The Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Self-Governance Compact and Funding Agreement elevates our government-to-government relationship with the Department of Transportation,” Kasie L. Nichols, CPN’s self governance director, said. “Self-Governance authority enables us to have more control of and flexibility with our Tribal transit and transportation programs while streamlining program administration and funding.”

Following the signing, USDOT representatives toured the CHC and CPN Eagle Aviary.

“USDOT’s Office of Tribal Government Affairs is excited to welcome the Citizen Potawatomi Nation into the Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program,” Assistant Secretary Teller said. “The Citizen Potawatomi Nation is now able to fully carry out Self-Governance and Self-Determination on Tribal transportation programs and projects that will tremendously benefit Tribal citizens and others in the community who, on a daily basis, rely on safe and dependable transportation. We are here to support and continue our assistance to the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in the advancement of its Tribal transportation programs.”