The story of the Potawatomi stretches back to times lost to history, beginning on the East Coast of what is now North America. By the time Europeans arrived, the Great Migration of prophecy was complete and the tribes were living around the Great Lakes, with a social structure that included a strong communal lifestyle.

Early European contact brought fur trade and a short-lived time of prosperity for the Potawatomi people. The first account of the Potawatomi people was by Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer traveling the Great Lakes in 1615.

Years of warfare between colonizers further escalated tensions between the tribes of the Great Lakes, their Indian neighbors and settlers, because European colonial forces pressured native communities to choose sides. The Potawatomi were signatories to more treaties with the United States than any other tribe. Despite signing more than 40 treaties during this time, the period between 1700 and 1900 was a time of conflict and removal for the Potawatomi people. Between war and forced removal these years were a dark time for Potawatomi people and culture.

The scattered Potawatomi settlements were consolidated onto one reservation in northeast Kansas as a result of an 1846 treaty. From 1847 to 1861 the Potawatomi in Kansas managed to survive as a people, but they did not thrive. Tribal members largely adapted to a sedentary lifestyle, but they did not assimilate to the degree desired by the federal government.

On Nov. 15, 1861, eight designated “chiefs” and more than 70 other members of the Potawatomi Nation met with federal agents to sign a treaty that would forever alter their community’s relationship with other Potawatomi and the U.S. government. The 1861 treaty initiated the process for acquiring fee-simple land allotments and U.S. citizenship for almost two-thirds of its members. This group, which became known as the Citizen Potawatomi, was among the first tribes to enter into a treaty agreement that included both conditions.

The provisions for the Citizen Potawatomi's move to Indian Territory were stipulated in a treaty signed on February 27, 1867.In 1869, a party of Citizen Potawatomi traveled to Indian Territory and selected a tract of land that became the site of the Citizen Potawatomi reservation. They chose a section of land that encompassed 576,000 acres between the north and south forks of the Canadian River. The land lay just west of the Seminole reservation and had an eastern boundary at the Indian Meridian. The earliest families to make the journey to their new reserve arrived in Indian Territory in 1872.

On August 16, 2007, the voters of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation overwhelmingly ratified a new constitution, expanding legislative representation to its approximately 20,000 members outside Oklahoma, where 10,000 Citizen Potawatomi live. Since then, CPN’s Nation operates the business of the tribal government on through a clear division of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches.


The Citizen Potawatomi Nation is the federally-recognized government of the Potawatomi people and exercises governmental jurisdiction in an area bounded by the North Canadian River, the South Canadian River, the Pottawatomie-Seminole County boundary (on the east), and the Indian Meridian (on the west).

The Citizen Potawatomi Nation constitution was created in 1938, amended in 1985 and again in 2007, forming a structure which incorporates executive, legislative, and judicial functions. Government leadership consists of a three person Executive Committee and a 16 person legislature representing more than 30,000 tribal citizens.


The August 2007 constitutional revision created a 16-member Legislature that speaks and acts as the legislative branch of the tribal government. It has all general powers not delegated by the Tribal Constitution to other entities. The Tribal Constitution limits the ability of the Legislature to speak and act on behalf of the tribe except by resolution or ordinance, thereby preserving the power of the Executive Officers to manage day-to-day affairs of the tribe.


The Citizen Potawatomi Nation Tribal court is designed to provide enforcement of tribal laws, equal justice to all and protection of tribal sovereignty. The Citizen Potawatomi Nation Tribal Court is comprised of a three member District Court judges, seven member Supreme Court Justices and two prosecutors. All Judges and Justices are law trained and are recognized as accomplished, well qualified and experienced individuals.

For more information, please contact Dr. James Collard at (888) 396-6057 or,
Courtney Palmer at or Vedrana Milakovic
Citizen Potawatomi Nation is a federally-recognized government and has inherent sovereign status recognized by treaty and federal law.

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