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Citizen Band of Potawatomi questioning constitution

SHAWNEE, Okla. - The Citizen Band of Potawatomi are currently debating the role of the tribal chairman.

Recently area newspapers reported that John "Rocky" Barrett was removed from his duties as tribal administrator and further that Barrett believes his authority as chairman gives him the right to appoint a tribal administrator.

The dispute over the constitution is similar to many seen throughout Indian country.

At the center of this Potawatomi controversy is whether the chairman can also hold the position of tribal administrator. The constitution is being questioned by both sides in the debate - Barrett believes it gives him the right to appoint anyone to the position of administrator and the business committee disagrees.

Committee members used a resolution to remove Barrett as tribal administrator, but Barrett acquired a restraining order on the action and is waiting for an Aug. 18 hearing on a constitutional interpretation from the court. His position as chairman is not in question.

"I'm still at work," Barrett said. "Then I will know if I am in both jobs or in one job."

Barrett has been the chairman of the band since 1985 and speaks with pride of the "tremendous amount of growth and economic development" the tribe has seen in the past 16 years.

"We own and operate, I think, the largest tribally owned national bank. We own First National Bank and Trust Co. here in Shawnee. It's had tremendous growth. We operate an 18-hole golf course; a 24-lane Brunswick Bowling Center ... we have a $9 million, 87,000-square-foot grocery story under construction and we just finished a new clinic project. Our assets have grown in the past 14 years, our assets have increased by over $90 million."

The tribe has members throughout the United States and holds meetings with those members in various cities around the country. Barrett said the tribe recently purchased land in Topeka, Kan., and planned to put in a tribal office and daycare center for members living in that area.

The chairman said he understands that growth like the Potawatomi Tribe has seen isn't without its ups and downs but he said that disagreements are a part of that growth. He also said tribes have the ability to resolve such differences internally.