Gun Lake Tribe History
The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe) is part of the historic Three Fires Confederacy, an alliance of the Pottawatomi (Bodewadmi), Ottawa (Odawa) and Chippewa (Ojibwe). Tribal Nations in the Great Lakes region are also known as the Neshnibek, or original people.
The Three Fires Confederacy, under the command of Chief Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish, signed the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 with the United States government. At the turn of the 19th century the Chief’s Band inhabited the Kalamazoo River Valley. The Band’s primary village was located at the head of the Kalamazoo River.
Chief Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish signed the Treaty of Chicago in 1821, which was the first land cession to the U.S. government that directly affected his Band. Under the terms of the 1821 Treaty, the Tribe retained a three-square-mile reservation located at present day downtown Kalamazoo.
The U.S. and the Pottawatomi Tribes signed the Treaty of St. Joseph in 1827. Under its terms the Chief ceded rights to the Kalamazoo reserve granted under the 1821 treaty. Neither payment nor land was ever provided to the Chief’s Band and instead this began a period of constant movement north in an effort to avoid forced removal out west. The Band briefly settled in Cooper, Plainwell and Martin before finding a permanent settlement in Bradley, circa 1838, near Gun Lake.
The Bradley Settlement was first known as the Griswold Mission. This was an effort of the Episcopal Church under the direction of Reverend James Selkirk to Christianize the Indians. Later known as the Bradley Indian Mission, Chief Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish’s Band remained an Indian community and persevered as a Tribal Government into present times.
The political leadership of the Band since European contact is well documented. First, Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish followed by his son Penassee, followed by his first son Shu-be-quo-ung (a.k.a. Moses Foster) and then Moses’s brother, known by his Anglicized name - David K. (D.K.) Foster. Charles Foster, D.K.’s son, was later elected Chief in 1911.
Under the leadership of Selkirk Sprague, the “Bradley Indians” attempted to organize under the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. Before doing so, however, the Bureau of Indian Affairs decided to withhold recognition of Lower Peninsula Michigan Indian Tribes.
During the 1980s the Band prepared for federal recognition under the new federal acknowledgement procedures of 1978. In the early 1990s, the Tribe filed for federal acknowledgement by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Branch of Acknowledgement and Research. Federal recognition of Chief Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish’s Band of Pottawatomi Indians became effective on August 23, 1999.
The Tribe’s constitution was adopted in 2000 and continues to guide the Tribal Government. The seven-member, popularly elected Tribal Council has authority over all affairs of the Tribe and its subsidiaries. The Tribe’s five-county service area includes Allegan, Barry, Kalamazoo, Kent and Ottawa counties.
In 2001 the Tribe began an arduous process to re-establish reservation lands to pursue economic development under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The federal process did not conclude until 2005 when the first of several frivolous legal challenges delayed the Tribe’s gaming project for nearly four years.
In 2003 the Tribe hired Station Casinos to manage its gaming project. After years of struggle and hardship the Tribe is beginning to see the possibilities of a brighter future.