DOWAGIAC, MI – The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians has announced the election of its new Tribal Council Members. Rebecca J. Richards has been elected Tribal Chairwoman, Sam Morseau has been elected Secretary, Mark Topash has been elected Member At Large, and Barbara Ann Warren has been elected Elders Representative. Chairwoman Richards placed first in a race that prominently featured three female candidates and has become the first female Chairwoman of the Pokagon Band since the tribe received its federal restoration in 1994.
The Pokagon Tribal Council governs the sovereign government of the Pokagon Band and contains 11 members who are elected to staggered, three-year terms by Pokagon Citizens. 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.
“I’m looking forward to working with members of our Tribal Council and our wonderful staff to pioneer a new path for our people – one that leads to better outcomes for every member of our Nation and ensures our future together,” said Chairwoman Richards. “It’s not lost on me that there’s a new era in politics at all levels of government today where women are in the driver’s seat. I think this election is a real testament to the notion that women of all colors and creeds are considered seriously as trailblazers. I’m excited to implement a style of leadership that puts the welfare of all members of our Nation first.”
Richards is a third generation member of the Pokagon Band raised in Hartford, MI. Upon graduation from college, she moved to Hawaii and worked as an executive for Geico Insurance but returned to Michigan when the Pokagon Band was granted federal recognition in 1994. Since 1995, she has served as Assistant Government Manager for the Band, leaving for a short stint as a Grant Manager at the Kellogg Foundation in Kalamazoo before being elected Chairwoman.
Sam Morseau has over 20 years of experience dedicated to indigenous education, strategic planning, and cultural immersion. In 2014, Morseau returned to his ancestral homelands to begin advocating for the indigenous students of Michigan. In addition to serving as the Director of Education, Morseau also served as Chairman of the Confederated Michigan Tribal Education Directors (CMTED) and President of the Tribal Education Directors National Assembly (TEDNA). Morseau continues to advocate for tribal nations by promoting educational sovereignty through government to government capacity building.
Mark Topash brings to the Tribal Council an extensive business background. Currently Topash is a Senior Vice President at Cleerly, Inc., a startup technology company providing a unique analysis that identifies, characterizes and quantifies coronary arterial plaques. Topash has 30 years of professional experience in new healthcare technology commercialization and an expertise in U.S. healthcare reimbursement.
Pokagon Elder Barbara Ann Warren, 68, is a grandmother of 28. She has seven adult children and three great grandchildren, with her fourth and fifth on the way. Warren was also a member of the Pokagon Band Tribal Council in the 1990’s and sat on the Board of Trustees for the Housing Assistance Office for the city of South Bend. Her family is actively involved in music and art, and she plays the violin. Warren is also a seamstress and makes Native regalia specializing in traditional wedding dresses and moccasins.
Other members of the 11-member Tribal Council continuing in their terms include: Vice Chair, Andrew Bennett; Treasurer, John Morseau; Member At Large, Anita Morales; Member At Large, Mark Parrish; Member At Large, Brandon Rapp; Member At Large, Alex Wesaw; and Member At Large, Steve Winchester.
Previous Tribal Chairman, Matthew Wesaw did not seek reelection. Kelly Curran completed a three-year term as Secretary, Gary Morseau completed a three-year term as Member At Large, and Colin Wesaw completed a three-year term as Elders Representative.