The Pokagon Fund History
The Pokagon Fund has its roots in an agreement made on March 13, 2000 (as amended), between the City of New Buffalo, New Buffalo Township, and the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. This agreement called for the establishment of a nonprofit entity to receive and distribute a percentage of the net win from certain games at the Four Winds Casino Resort – New Buffalo, which is owned by the Pokagon Band.
The Fund is governed by a seven-member board. The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians’ Tribal Council appoints two directors, New Buffalo Township appoints one, the City of New Buffalo appoints one; the three remaining directors are jointly selected by the four appointed directors. This model is unique – we know of no other private foundation in the United States whose board is comprised of community members, local government leaders, and members appointed by a Tribal Council, deriving its revenue from casino profits, and making grants that enhance the lives of residents of select communities.
Distributions are made in the form of grants to local government and nonprofit entities serving the communities and residents of New Buffalo Township, the City of New Buffalo, The Village of Three Oaks, Three Oaks Township, Chikaming Township, the Village of Michiana, the Village of Grand Beach (collectively known as “Harbor Country”), River Valley School District, New Buffalo Area Schools, Hartford, Dowagiac — all of which are in Michigan — and in South Bend, Indiana.
The Fund hired its first executive director in July 2007. The world-class Four Winds Casino Resort – New Buffalo facility opened at noon on Aug. 2, 2007. Since November 2007, the Fund has awarded grants to support local government programs and other programs benefitting seniors, children and schools; student scholarships; compulsive treatment programs (including, but not limited to, gambling programs); land preservation and acquisition; and local economic development projects. The first round of philanthropy included awards of $5,000 each to five grantees: Harbor Country Emergency Food Pantry, the Irish Connection, New Buffalo Service League, Senior Nutrition Services and Toys for Tots for the organizations’ holiday services.
Ever since 2007, the Fund has strived to honor the generosity of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi and the ingenuity of all its founders by building up the communities it was created to benefit, and the people in them, through smart, meaningful, and impactful grantmaking.