Pokagon Band of Potawatomi elects new Tribal Council members
Published 9:45 am Wednesday, August 16, 2023
DOWAGIAC — The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians announced the election of its new Tribal Council Members who were sworn in during a ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 12.
Andrew Bennett, John M. Morseau, and Victor Warren were elected to Member At Large positions, and Dr. Alex Wesaw was elected Treasurer.
The Pokagon Tribal Council governs the sovereignty of the Pokagon Band and contains 11 members who are elected by Pokagon Citizens to staggered, three-year terms. Any adult Pokagon Citizen can run for Tribal Council. Within the Tribal Council, the executive officers include positions of Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer. Pokagon Tribal Council Members also serve on the Pokagon Gaming Authority, which oversees the Pokagon Band’s Four Winds Casinos.
Commenting on the election, Rebecca Richards, Chairwoman of the Pokagon Band Tribal Council said, “On behalf of our current Tribal Council and more than 6,000 Pokagon Citizens, I would like to personally welcome our newly elected members. We have a mix of returning members, as well as a first-time member, all of which will contribute to a very productive Council. I look forward to working closely with everyone to achieve our goals, and I would also like to sincerely thank our outgoing Members At Large, Brandon Rapp and Steve Winchester, for their service to our Tribal Council and our Nation.”
Andrew Bennett is the son of John L. Bennett Sr. and Theresa (Shagonaby) McFall, and the grandson of George E. Shagonaby and Rachel (Gowens) Shagonaby. He grew up in Berrien Springs, Michigan and has been a resident of Hartford, Michigan for more than ten years. Mr. Bennett rejoins the Pokagon Band Tribal Council after serving as Vice Chairman from 2019 to 2021, where he was involved in the hotel and gaming floor expansion of Four Winds South Bend. As Vice Chairman, Mr. Bennett also worked with other Tribal Council Members on the Pokagon Band’s entry into cannabis industry and he is the co-creator of the Pokagon Development Authority, having served in the roles of Interim Chairman and Treasurer. Mr. Bennett was also member of the Enrollment Committee from 2015 to 2022. He holds certificates of education in Indian Gaming, Tribal Development, and Leadership.
John M. Morseau’s biological parents are the late John Mark Morseau and Charlette Elaine Morseau. He was adopted early in life by his mother and father, Lucinda Graverette-Smith and Gregory Smith. He was raised in Dowagiac, Michigan and spent much of his life living within the Pokagon Band Community. Mr. Morseau rejoins Tribal Council as Member At Large, after previously serving as Treasurer and Member At Large beginning in 2020. He has worked for the Pokagon Band in numerous capacities including participating in the Band’s Youth Council and interning for the Pokagon Band and its Four Winds Casinos. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from MSU, he worked as a clerk for the Pokagon Band Tribal Court. He left the Tribal Court to attend the University of New Mexico School of Law where he studied the rights of Tribes and indigenous people under the nation’s leading Federal Indian Law scholars. Mr. Morseau graduated cum laude and passed the Michigan Bar Exam on his first attempt. He is a former staff attorney for a non-profit organization providing legal counsel and advice to Michigan natives. He also worked as a Tribal Relations Lead to an international sustainable energy developer. In addition to serving on the Pokagon Band Tribal Council, Mr. Morseau currently works for the Center for Indian Country Development housed at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis where he researches policy issues that impact Tribal economies.
Victor S. Warren’s grandmother was Mary Topash-Warren. His father was Stephen Warren Jr. who was the younger brother of Mary Jo (Morris) and older brother of Jim, Bill, Barbara Ann, and John. Mr. Warren was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana and is the second oldest of five children. He holds a degree in Finance from the University of Notre Dame and is also a *CPA (*not in public practice). He has held various high-level management, finance, and accounting positions during his extensive 35-year professional career. This is Mr. Warren’s first term serving on the Pokagon Band Tribal Council. In 2023 he joined the Pokagon Development Authority Board of Directors and was previously appointed to the Ethics Board in 2017.
Dr. Alex Wesaw holds a doctorate in City & Regional Planning from The Ohio State University, where he wrote his dissertation on intergovernmental relations involving Tribal governments and their role in regional economic development. Dr. Wesaw has served as a Member At Large on Tribal Council since 2017. During his tenure on Tribal Council, he also served as Treasurer and Acting Treasurer as well as served as a member of the Pokagon Gaming Authority and the Gaming Authority’s Business Board, a member of the Finance Board, Land Use Board, the Pokagon Rights Board, and a member of the negotiation team on the Pokagon Band’s gaming compact with the State of Indiana. Most recently Dr. Wesaw has been serving as the Chairman of the Pokagon Development Authority which opened a new cannabis retail store earlier this year called Rolling Embers in New Buffalo, Michigan. Outside of his service to the Band, Dr. Wesaw serves nationally as a member of the Board of the Indian Gaming Association, as a member of the Board of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, and regionally as a Trustee for The Nature Conservancy in Ohio. Dr. Wesaw also serves as the Director of American Indian Relations at the Ohio History Connection, managing the organization’s relationship with more than 45 federally recognized Tribal governments. In 2022, Dr. Wesaw was recognized by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development as one of 40 leaders under 40.
Other members of the 11-member Tribal Council continuing in their terms include Chairwoman Rebecca Richards; Vice Chairman, Gary Morseau Sr.; Secretary, Sam Morseau; Member At Large, Rhonda Keene; Member At Large, Mark Parrish; and Member At Large, Mark Topash; and Elders Representative, Barbara Ann Warren.