Pine Creek Gathering creates first Bodéwadmi Confederacy

By Leeanne Seaver

“This year’s gathering was unprecedented,” said Amanda Hess, a councilmember of the Hannahville Indian Community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and also known as Chief Eagle Woman. “And what we accomplished will hopefully set an example for other tribes.”

The 2023 gathering of Potawatomi Nations brought more than 2,000 from coast to coast to the Pine Creek Reservation near Fulton between July 24 to 30. “There are 12 Potawatomi nations today spread across the U.S. and Canada, and they refer to Michigan and other Great Lake states as their homelands,” explained Jamie Stuck, tribal council chairperson of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP) located at Pine Creek.

The name Potawatomi is anglicized from Bodéwadmi, the name of the indigenous people native to this area who were forcibly expelled by the Indian Removal Act of 1830. “Actually, the removal of the Potawatomi was completed in phases. We were the last Potawatomi Band to be removed in 1840, and our final destination was supposed to be Kansas,” Stuck said. “Our ancestors, under the leadership of Chief Moguago, turned back towards Michigan at Skunk Grove, between Chicago and Green Bay, before establishing their residence at Pine Creek Reservation in 1845.”

The Potawatomi were not only separated as a result of the Indian Removal Act, but the children were taken from their families and placed in boarding schools where they were punished for speaking their language and practicing their culture and traditions. The Bodéwadmi communities were decimated, but they survived. “It’s an incredible, healing experience when we come back together,” Hess said. “The gathering is not just a pow wow but a collective celebration of our culture as a nation. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet other Potawatomi from across the U.S. and Canada and make lasting connections with our relatives.”

The gathering was rich in tribal traditions including dancing, drumming, and sharing native food, teachings, and stories. During the week-long event, participants could take classes which included native language and cultural practice. The “Voices of History” project being produced by the NHBP Audio-Visual Department recorded the elders to preserve tribal stories for generations to come.

Such experiences create unparalleled opportunities to bond as a tribal community. What was systematically torn apart by colonialism for almost two centuries is being restored and given new life. The 2023 gathering elevated this goal to an unprecedented level.

On July 27, the Tribal Council members of the 12 Potawatomi nations across North America voted on a resolution to establish the first-ever Bodéwadmi Confederation. This Confederation represents the tens of thousands of enrolled Potawatomi tribal members who reside all across North America and beyond.

“This marks a historical moment,” said Jamie Stuck. “First of its kind for the Potawatomi nations, this Confederation will enable our nations to have a stronger, much larger voice, with all of us collaborating to achieve the common goals not only for our people today, but also for the next seven generations.”

Match-E-Bash-She-Nash-E-Wish (Gun Lake Potawatomi) Tribal Councilmember Ben Brenner concurred, “This document and the new confederacy symbolize our commitment to the preservation and knowledge of our culture, language, and ways.”

The Pine Creek gathering was an astounding success on many levels, which was “so important to us,” Stuck emphasized. “We spent a year as local team members working with the economic, legal, and government side, and Firekeepers Casino, to prepare for it. It’s a testament to their hard work and dedication that we set a new standard for this gathering. We are now joined as a confederacy that will strengthen us. If you take one arrow, you can break it with ease, but a bundle of 12 is impossible to break.”

Introducing cartoonist Jonny Hawkins

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

One of my wishes for the South County News is a monthly cartoon — one that stays away from politics and finds humor in everyday events. I have mentioned this desire to the board and shared this wish with friends and family members over the last year.

In mid-July, a package arrived in our post office box: a letter from Sherwood resident Jonny Hawkins and a sample of his Country Chuckles cartoon panels. Who knew a professional cartoonist lived nearby? His son had picked up a copy of the South County News at an area restaurant and nudged his dad to send us his work. Isn’t it amazing how answers and people are sent our way?

Jonny grew up on a small farm in Sherwood in neighboring Branch County. His mother, whom Jonny describes as “his inspiration,” was an artist who allowed Jonny’s creative spirit and talents to grow and thrive. His mother’s work was realistic, leaning towards landscapes and wildlife. Jonny? He loved Disney cartoons. He began by copying the style of existing Disney cartoons, filling notebook and after notebook with cartoons and sketches. When he was 8 or 9, he was given a book, “How to Draw Cartoons”, which offered instruction and helped him develop his own characters and style. In addition, his mother encouraged the use of her extensive art supplies, allowing him to freely create and discover.

Soon, he knew he wanted to be a cartoonist. He attended two years of college at William Tyndale College, formerly Detroit Bible College, where he continued to draw cartoons. He worked at the school’s library where Jonny says Mrs. Frohlich, his library supervisor, realized his abilities and had him design characters and materials for library use.

“I loved it when my work made her laugh. She really encouraged me.” She eventually sent his work to Nota Bene, a library publication, where it was accepted. About this time Jonny realized there were freelancers, people who made a living drawing and selling their cartoons, and so his career began.

His success didn’t happen overnight. Jonny says it “took a long time to evolve and still has its ups and downs.” But since 1986, his work has appeared in over 900 publications, publications like Reader’s Digest, Parade magazine, Guideposts, Ranch Living and 76 “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. He has drawn over 54,000 cartoons and has published 20 books. He has created 85 page-a-day cartoon calendars, most of them for the world’s leading calendar publisher, Andrews McMeel. One of those is Medical Cartoon-a-day calendar, now in its 19th year.

His latest book is “Mirth in the Morning” (Schiffer Publishing), a coffee table book collection of 1,001 of some of his best cartoons. His next book, “Laughter Therapy,” was released in 2021 (Harvest House).

His comic panel, County Chuckles, appears in 40 publications and online. This series is drawn from his experiences growing up on a hobby farm. His cartoon jigsaw puzzle, Funny Farm, is available online and published by St. Louis Puzzle Warehouse.

Jonny works from his home in the country in Sherwood, where he lives with his wife, Carissa, their children Nate, Zach and Kara, an Aussie Doodle, Blue, and six cats.

How does a cartoonist find inspiration? “I always keep a small notebook with me and continually write down ideas. These are the seeds I often work from.” He also credits persistence and “constant daily prayer” as an important key to his success. For a change of scene, he enjoys working in coffee shops or bookstores, but his home studio is where most of his work is done.

We are pleased to present one of Jonny’s cartoon panels each month. It will appear on the last page.

I hope you enjoy them. I sure do!

Bike celebration returns to Vicksburg Sept. 15-17

By Paul Selden

The 5th annual Fall Bike Celebration Weekend offers a Farmers Market Cycle-In event on Friday, September 15, a kid’s Bike Rodeo on Saturday and a route cycling event on Sunday.

On Friday, the first 30 shoppers riding in by bike to the Vicksburg Farmers Market can receive a $5 coupon good for purchases at the Farmers Market. The adjacent Vicksburg Historic Village is also offering guided 45-minute tours to anyone wishing to learn more about this re-creation of life in southwest Michigan at the turn of the 1900’s.

A free Bike Rodeo for children from the entire area is planned for the morning of Saturday, organized by Safe Kids of Kalamazoo County. This event, which aims to encourage kids to ride bikes safely, will be on a closed course set up with fun and realistic educational challenges. The Rodeo will include a helmet check, a bike mechanical check, and a chance to have fun and exercise while learning rules of the road. Saturday also features a tour of the Vicksburg Mill Project that is open to the public, additional guided tours of the Vicksburg Historic Village, a bicycle mural exhibit, and an Ice Cream Social at Apple Knockers Ice Cream Parlor for pre-registered riders.

On Sunday Sept. 17 the Fall Bike Celebration Bike Tour will offer routes that take cyclists back in time, starting and ending at the Historic Village while featuring views of the Vicksburg Quilt Trail paintings. Cyclists can pick from scenic destinations all the way to Shipshewana, with views of Michigan’s longest covered bridge, take in highlights of the Vicksburg Quilt Trail, visit Scotts Mill Park, ride through the village of Climax, as well as more bite-sized family-friendly routes. New for this year is a so-called gravel ride featuring a rest stop at the beautiful Rawson’s King Mill Park in Leonidas.

The weekend long event is organized by civic leaders, local charities and bike-related organizations, presenting dozens of reasons to ride, spotlighting local amenities while reminding the public to bike and drive safely.

Some activities are free, some require waivers and some require children to be accompanied by an adult. Bill Adams, former Vicksburg village president, is enthusiastic. “Vicksburg welcomes bicyclists and encourages everyone from the region to enjoy the Fall Bike Celebration. We are grateful for the support of the generous sponsors and wonderful in-kind supporters who make this fantastic fall bicycle festival possible.” For updates, see