Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
In 1954, the U.S. House of Representatives drafted a treaty called HR 4985, which set to terminate federal supervision of five Indian tribes. Among those tribes was the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in its present location in Mayetta, Kan.
However, tribal members prevailed with several traveling to Washington, D.C., to testify in front of Congress.
“Thankfully, the message of the Potawatomi unity came across strong and clear, and Congress withdrew the Potawatomi name from the termination list,” according to the tribe’s official site.
This was just one aspect of the history of the tribe that Jim Potts, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation spiritual leader, shared during his remarks at the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth National American Indian Heritage Month luncheon Nov. 14 at the Frontier Conference Center.
Potts was only 3 years old when the termination treaty was created. Around that time he was taken away from his family and went through several foster homes until he was adopted when he was 6 years old.
“It was an abusive family,” Potts said.
Potts said he learned from his struggles, and eventually joined the U.S. Navy in the 1970s and completed two tours in Vietnam. After eight years in the Navy, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves for 10 years.
Upon leaving service, he returned to his native tribe.
“I came home and the tribe accepted me,” Potts said. “We hold the veteran in high regard.
“It takes you people to do what needs to be done away from home, away from families,” he said. “I’ve been there and done that.”
Potts said he is proud that he served.
“During my time in the military, I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘Why are you here? You’re Native American. You don’t belong here,’” Potts said. “This is my home. This is my country. I belong here just as much as you do. I’m going to sign that blank check, too. I deserve it.
“Now, you guys are the future. You are the brave. For me, that’s a blessing,” he said. “I thank the Creator every day for you guys. I thank the Creator when you leave. I thank the Creator when you get back, that he brought you back safely. … I thank each and every one of you for your service to this great country. I’m a proud American. I can see each and every one of you are proud Americans, too.”
After Potts’ remarks, Michael Formica, deputy to the CAC commanding general, presented Potts with a token of appreciation.
“Thank you for sharing with us your history as a member of our armed forces, as an American,” Formica said. “Most of us never heard of that bill, the termination act that you lived through. For you to live through that experience and then serve our nation so honorably and be so committed to veterans of all races speaks very highly of you as a human being and as an American citizen.”
The next CAC and Fort Leavenworth observance luncheon for Martin Luther King Jr. Day is at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 16 at the FCC.