The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians opened Indiana’s first Native American-owned and operated casino in January. Located on 166 acres of tribal trust land in northern Indiana, the Four Winds South Bend Casino, will feature 55,000 square-feet of space for games, restaurants, bars, a coffee shop, lounge and retail outlet.
The casino shares the Four Winds brand with the other Pokagon casino locations that include New Buffalo, Hartford and Dowagiac in Michigan.
“When we broke ground in December 2016, we did so knowing we’ll have a significant economic impact on the region,” John P. Warren, chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, said in a statement. The casino is expected to employ 1,200 people.
“Once operating, it will generate revenue to fund services and programs that will create additional economic opportunities for Pokagon Citizens [and] the city of South Bend, and also fund community projects, local organizations and schools,” according to Warren.
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians sovereignty was reaffirmed under legislation signed into law by President Clinton in September 1994.
“Our commitment to our tribal citizens, children and families of this region is our greatest priority. From the moment of the groundbreaking and beyond when the casino opens, the benefits will multiply,” said Warren.
“Our Pathways Program provides the necessary steps a citizen or spouse of a tribal citizen can take to find a fulfilling career,” explained Abbie Kusch, administrative assistant for Mno-Bmadsen, the economic development enterprise of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi.
The casino is expected to make a long-lasting impact in the area beyond the short-term construction jobs by creating 2,000 permanent, full-time jobs and attracting hundreds of daily visitors. In addition to the casino, the project includes a 500-room hotel, a police substation, an adjoining tribal village featuring 44 homes, a community center and health services.
Warren explained that the Pokagon Band has lived in this region for thousands of years and has been working since 2012 to reestablish their sovereign land in Indiana. As a federally recognized tribe, the Pokagon Band can control activities on its land independent of state government.
“The development of this Tribal Village in South Bend will help break down barriers to services for our tribal citizens and enable us to build the necessary healthcare, family services, education facilities and homes,” Warren said.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the tribe’s application to take into trust Pokagon Band land in the city. The move marks the first restoration of sovereign tribal land in Indiana. “For the first time in 200 years, Indiana has Indian country in it again,” Warren said.
South Bend officials approved agreements with the Pokagons that spelled out obligations for both sides in support of the casino. The city will not support any other casino efforts.
Instead of paying property taxes, the Pokagons will pay two percent of the casino’s annual net proceeds (not less than $1 million) to the city, half of which will go to the city’s general fund and half to a Redevelopment Commission fund to support initiatives aimed at improving educational opportunities and addressing poverty and unemployment.
The Pokagons made a $400,000 payment to help replace and upgrade the Calvert Street Lift Station so the city can provide sewer and water services to the casino.
In addition, the Pokagons will donate $5 million to local organizations over a five-year period. Planned recipients include South Bend schools, the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Memorial Children’s Hospital and improvements to Howard Park.
Over the last two centuries, the Pokagon Band ceded more than 5.2 million acres of their homeland to the United States. As they reclaim a modest portion of it, Warren said they take comfort in knowing how proud their ancestors would be of this historic achievement. “Restoration of our homeland will preserve our legacy for the next seven generations of Pokagon citizens and ensure that our ongoing economic contributions to South Bend will continue to grow.”