Pokagons building 32 more homesPublished 5:39pm Thursday, November 1, 2012
A $6.5 million housing investment at Pokagon Band village just down Dailey Road from Southwestern Michigan College will create 188 construction jobs, tribal Treasurer John Warren announced Thursday.
Sixteen townhouses and 16 duplexes taking shape over the next seven months behind the community center mean a total of 66 houses and will be a model for potential development in South Bend, Ind.
“We should be finished mid-summer — hopefully, July,” Warren said.
In 2013, the tribe also plans to open Four Winds Dowagiac on M-51 South.
A tour started at the community center, 27043 Potawatomi Trail, northwest of the intersection of Peavine and Dailey roads.
The tribe delivers health, cultural preservation, education and child care from various locations around Dowagiac, which is the central location serving 4,500 Pokagon citizens.
“We feel South Bend citizens could benefit from similar services,” Warren said. “We didn’t wake up one day and decide to build houses. We had over three years of town hall meetings throughout Michigan and northern Indiana. This is the result of what they wished for.”
Media representatives visited the community center and a lease-to-own home in the 2007 addition to the village that followed elder housing built in 2004.
The 8,500-square-foot “green” community center dedicated in May boasts solar panels, recycled materials — including trim from tornado-toppled trees — and a roof with live plants. It earned a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification award.
Eight acres have been restored to native grasses and drought-resistant landscaping. With such features as local building materials, tinted insulated glass and light-colored roofing, the building helps educate not only Pokagons but the wider community on the value of sustainable development.
“Our windows face south, and it is designed to reflect cultural and historic values of the tribe. If you look up, the cloud looks like a turtle,” Warren said. “Tribal Council member Tom Topash has great knowledge in that area and is one of the biggest advocates. Our community center includes space for parties. We’ve used it for funerals and video conferencing for language classes to three tribes. We had a Halloween party packed with kids last weekend, and, this morning, elders will be using it. It’s a good family-gathering place. Pokagon Township met here.”
“We’ve seen a 48 percent reduction from traditional fossil fuel utilities,” said Jason M. Wesaw, government manager.
Dowagiac last month agreed to extend sewer and water to the 320 acres, allowing city utilities to complete a loop.
“The trust application (for South Bend, or “Ribbontown”) calls for about 44 homes,” said Warren, who pinch-hit for Chairman Matt Wesaw, who was traveling.
The tribe is trying to acquire 164 acres two miles southwest of downtown South Bend through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
Communications Director Paige Risser said the acreage is near Rum Village.
Use of the land is open to many possibilities, including a gaming facility, but the tribe’s intention is to focus initially on housing for tribal citizens in Indiana and satellite facilities to deliver services.
“The Pokagon Band’s Indiana residents, particularly our elders and low-income citizens, face significant challenges in finding suitable housing and accessing our health, education and family services program,” Chairman Wesaw said previously. “As a result, we are evaluating potential projects and initiatives that will serve our citizens, as well as area residents, including members of other Native American tribes and the state.”
“Any decisions we make on behalf of tribal citizens, we always try to anticipate what future leaders in the next 10 to 20 years would want. We try to be multipurpose to give future councils tools,” Warren said.