The mission of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP) is to provide leadership for Tribal Members and to serve as a model for other Native Americans in areas of self-government, self-reliance and self-empowerment. The Tribe’s goal is to provide its Tribal Members with the best in health care, educational opportunities, housing, healthy environment and economic opportunity as a sovereign Native American Nation. The proceeds from FireKeepers Casino Hotel help cover to cover those costs for NHBP and its Members.

There are over 1,400 Tribal Members and many live around southwest Michigan in the Tribe’s seven-county service area covering: Allegan, Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, Kent and Ottawa counties. NHBP’s Government Center is located at the Pine Creek Indian Reservation in Athens Township; the Tribe also maintains a satellite administrative office and health facility in Grand Rapids to better serve its Tribal Members.


Chairperson: Dorie Rios
Vice Chairperson: Robyn Elkins
Secretary: Nancy Smit
Treasurer: Ariel Boonstra
Sergeant-At-Arms: Homer A. Mandoka


The Potawatomi name is a derivation of Bodéwadmi. Bodwé means to put something into a fire. Wadmi refers to the people. Bodéwadmi means “The people who maintain a fire,” also known as Fire Keepers. This refers to the role the Potawatomi people have as the Keepers of the Council Fire, which was an earlier alliance with other Tribes in the area.

The Potawatomi Nation encompasses lands along the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan, across to Detroit and from the Huron and Grand Rivers southward into northern Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. A number of treaties restricted the territory of the Potawatomi Nation to the southwestern region of Michigan. In the Treaty of Chicago 1821, Potawatomi Tribal leaders were forced to sign the Treaty that essentially took away all but a small portion of lands in southern Michigan, Indiana and northern Illinois.

Tribal Members were later forced to cede the remainder of their “reserved lands,” contained within the “Notawasepe Reserve,” and were relocated to lands west of the Mississippi River. There was great resistance by Tribal Members to leaving their Michigan villages and hunting territories.


Under the leadership of Chief John Moguago, a small number of NHBP Tribal Members avoided forced relocation or, soon after relocation, returned to their native state of Michigan. Tribal Members settled in various locations in Allegan and Bradley, Michigan, but the Tribe concentrated near Athens, Michigan. The Reservation was established by Chief Moguago on a 120-acre parcel of land along the Pine Creek near Athens, Michigan, purchased in 1845 with treaty annuity money. The Reservation has since been declared a historic site by the state and federal governments. The Pine Creek Indian Reservation still serves as the Tribe’s primary land base, providing housing, Community events and medical services for Membership.


NHBP endured a 10 year journey to develop a casino by defeating numerous legal challenges from various groups and obtaining federal approvals. NHBP submitted an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) encompassing some 600 pages of text and diagrams analyzing impacts from socio-economic to biological to physical factors with input from local public officials, which is a requirement of federal law. The EIS was accepted by the U.S. Department of Interior and satisfied challengers.
In December 2006, the federal government took official action to acquire the property in Emmett Township into trust for purposes of constructing and operating a casino, and declared it as part of the Tribe’s initial reservation.


Under Tribal Council’s leadership, the Tribe has accomplished successful nongaming initiatives. These include Elder Housing, Community Centers, Health Facilities, Tribal Court, Tribal Police and a small convenience store. NHBP has also started its own development board called Waséyabek Development Company, LLC. WDC was formed to foster economic diversification through non-gaming business acquisitions, development and investments on behalf of NHBP. As a 100% Tribally-owned company, WDC contributes to the long-term sustainability and economic self-sufficiency of the Tribe by returning dividends in the form of revenue, assets, youth development, board member positions, and quality career development and employment opportunities for Tribal Members.
WDC is governed by a five-member Board of Directors which provides input and direction for the company in the form of strategic planning, budget approval, acquisition review and consent, and business expertise. For more information, visit waseyabek.com


The Seven Grandfather teachings have always been a part of the Native American culture. Their roots date back to the beginning of time. These teachings impact our surroundings, along with providing guidance toward our actions to one another.

According to the story, long ago, a messenger was sent to see how the Neshnabék were living. The Neshnabék were living their life in a negative way which impacted their thoughts, decisions and actions. Some had hate for others, displayed disrespectful actions, were afraid, told lies and cheated. Others revealed pride while others were full of shame. During his journey, the messenger came across a child. This child was chosen to be taught by the Seven Grandfathers to live a good way of life. He was taught the lessons of Love, Respect, Bravery, Truth, Honesty, Humility and Wisdom.

Before departing from the Seven Grandfathers, they told him, “Each of these teachings must be used with the rest. You cannot have Wisdom without Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility and Truth. You cannot be Honest if you are only using one of the other teachings. To leave out one teaching would be embracing the opposite of what the teaching means.” The Seven Grandfathers each instructed the child with a principle. It was then up to the child to forget them or to put them to use.

Each one of us represents the child. We must faithfully apply the teachings of our Seven Grandfathers to our own lives. We must place our trust in the Creator. We must also never forget to be sincere in our actions, character and words.


    • Love – Debanawen
      Knowing love is to know peace. Our love must be unconditional. When people are weak, that is when they need love the most. Love is a strong affection for another. This can form between friends and family. Love is an attachment based upon devotion, admiration, tenderness and kindness for all things around you. For one to love and accept themself is to live at peace with the Creator and in harmony with all of creation. Love knows no bounds. We must accept it sincerely and give it freely.


    • Respect – Wdetanmowen
      A way to honor creation is by showing respect. There should be no part of creation that should be excluded from the honor that we are to give. We demonstrate respect by realizing the value of all people or things and by showing courteous consideration and appreciation. We must give respect if we wish to be respected. We honor the traditional roles that we fill and the teachings we have been given. We honor our families and others, as well as ourselves. We are not to bring harm to anyone or anything. Respect is not just an action, but a heart-grown feeling.


    • Bravery – Wédaséwen
      Facing a problem with integrity is a true demonstration of bravery. We do what is right even when the consequences may be unpleasant. We face life with the courage to use our personal strengths to face difficulties, stand tall through adversity and make positive choices. We must stand up for our convictions, and have courage in our thinking and speaking. All of these actions together will lead to ceaseless bravery.


    • Truth – Débwéwen
      Truth is having the knowledge of our cultural teachings. It gives us the ability to act without regret. We must understand, speak and feel the truth while also honoring its power. Truth should not lead us to deceptions. We know who we are in our heart. By knowing that, we also know the truth. Our emotional, physical, mental and spiritual gifts will guide each one of us in our journey.


    • Honesty – Gwékwadsewen
      Facing a situation is to be brave, but having the courage to not only do the right thing, but also saying it is honesty. We must allow truth to be our guide. We must first be honest with ourselves. This will allow us to be honest with others. We must give full value to both the efforts of our own and others. When we walk through life with integrity, it is then that we know honesty. Be truthful and trustworthy. We must also remember to accept and act on truths through straightforward and appropriate communication.


    • Humility – Édbeséndowen
      Humility is to know that we are a part of creation. We must always consider ourselves equal to one another. We should never think of ourselves as being better or worse than anyone else. Humility comes in many forms such as compassion, calmness, meekness, gentleness and patience. We must reflect on how we want to present ourselves to those around us. We must be aware of the balance and equality with all of life, including humans, plants and animals.


    • Wisdom – Bwakawen 
      The mixture of these teachings, combined with the experiences of life is what we refer to as wisdom. It is given to us by the Creator to be used for good. Wisdom carries other meanings, which also includes intelligence or knowledge. When we cherish our knowledge or intelligence, we are also cherishing our wisdom. We must use sound judgment, along with the ability to separate inner qualities and relationships. We must use a good sense and course of action to form a positive attitude. We must remember to listen and use the wisdom that has been provided by our Elders, Tribal leadership and our spiritual leaders. We must also always remember that wisdom comes in all shapes, sizes, forms and ages.



In May 2016, several Tribes in Michigan, including NHBP, were awarded the Michigan Historic Preservation Network’s 2016 Government Institution Award.

The Michigan Historic Preservation Network presented the award to representatives of several Tribes during a reception on Friday, May 13, 2016, held at the Garden Theater in Detroit, for their part in the M-23/US-31 Holland to Grand Haven Archaeological Data Recoveries.

Among the recipients who traveled to receive this Government Institution Award was NHBP Environmental Director John Rodwan.

The Tribal co-awardees include the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. The same Archaeological Data Recoveries award also included the Michigan Department of Transportation, Environmental Section, Michigan State Historic Preservation Office and the Commonwealth Heritage Group for their work on the project.

The award is one of several Government Institution Awards given during the ceremony. Other awards went to the City of Monroe for its River Raisin Heritage Corridor project and to the St. Clair County Regional Educational Service Agency.

Several Lifetime Achievement Awards also were given to distinguished Michigan historic preservationists.

For more information about the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, visit their website.

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