Pokagon Tribe Uses WRP to Restore Cultural Land Use
Prior to European settlement, the Potawatomi Nation traditional territory
extended from the southern shores of Lake Erie in Ohio west to the Mississippi
River in Illinois, halfway into Michigan's lower Peninsula to the north and
south to the Wabash River. These territories were lost during the removal
period and treaty-making with the U.S. government in the late 1700s and into the
1800s. While most of the Potawatomi were removed west of the Mississippi
River, chief Leopold Pokagon negotiated with the U.S. to allow the Pokagon Band
and its allied villages to remain with the Great Lakes region. Beginning
in 1996, the Band began to restore its land base for the benefit of the tribal
government and its citizens. Included in its purchases were 1,450 acres of
land along the current Kankakee River, and land which was within the former
Kankakee River marshland area near North Liberty, IN. Historically, the
former marsh provided hunting, gathering, and fishing areas for our ancestors.
The Band is utilizing the USDA-NRCS Wetlands Reserve Program to help re-connect
to its ancestral cultural uses and activities.
Through the WRP program, NRCS staff recreated marsh areas and established
vegetation patterns over 1,147 acres of the Band's property to emulate the
historic marsh and associated habitats. Approximately 683 acres of warm
season grasses and forbs were planted by Pokagon Band Environmental Department
and Land Maintenance Department staff to establish mesic prairie conditions.
In addition, Wild Rice was also established in this area. Wild Rice holds
a cultural significance to the Pokagon Band as it will be utilized as a food
source in tribal ceremonies.
The experiences gained from the WRP activities offer conservation
opportunities for the Pokagon Band. The planting and establishment of
native vegetated prairies in transferable to the installation of conservation
practices, such as filter strips, vegetates swales, and native vegetated
prairies to protect water quality. These conservation practices can be
integrated into agricultural practices and development project to manage storm
water in ways that protect water quality.
Over the long term, the restoration will provide a Tribal land preserve.
The preserve is envisioned to offer recreational, cultural, and educational
opportunities which can enhance the quality of life for Tribal citizens.
The WRP project provides benefits to the Band's local and regional neighbors
by helping reduce the severity of flooding by retaining water on the Band's
property. The wildlife habitat created by the project provides a corridor
link to surrounding State Conservation Areas, State Parks, and other private
Written by Kris Vance, NRCS, Indiana