The 12 Sovereign Tribes Building Economic Success with Community

Garrett Anderson

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Native American Heritage Month, celebrated every November, is a time to honor the traditions, stories and sovereignty of Native American communities, including Michigan’s 12 federally recognized Tribes:

Region 1: Upper Peninsula region
1. Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
2. Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
3. Hannahville Indian Community
tribes_map500.jpg4. Bay Mills Indian Community
5. Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Region 2: Northwest region
6. Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
7. Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
8. Little River Band of Ottawa Indians

Region 4: West Michigan region
9. Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Potawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe)

Region 5: East Central Michigan region
10. Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe

Region 8: Southwest region
11. Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians
12. Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians

To preserve their culture and create jobs in their communities, these Tribes are expanding and diversifying their economic opportunities. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) is proud to support these efforts to build up Tribal communities, which also supports the state’s push for stronger manufacturing and regional development.

Join these Tribal partners, the MEDC and The Michigan Opportunity, with host Ed Clemente, to learn more about the economic efforts of the 12 Tribes of Michigan.


Strong Communities Are Common Ground

Terri Fitzpatrick, a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, leads the MEDC’s Office of Tribal Business Development. Fitzpatrick is also the chief real estate and global attraction officer for the state’s site readiness and global attraction efforts, helping businesses move to and expand in Michigan. Those two career responsibilities overlap in their focus on building community by diversifying and increasing economic opportunity.

“I have so much gratitude for growing up with Tribal people where there’s such a strong sense of community. What you do really should be always to benefit others,” said Fitzpatrick. “That comes back to you as well because you’re part of that community. That community-driven focus really has tribes look at business differently.”

Listen as Fitzpatrick explains the economic relationships that Tribes have with Michigan and how their goals align to bring prosperity to every corner of the state.

Listen to The Michigan Opportunity episode

Blending Values with Business for Economic Success

Chippewa Government Solutions, a Tribally owned federal contractor, creates economic opportunities for the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians by combining modern business practices with Native American values, including honesty, humility and bravery.


“People want to do business with trustworthy and dependable companies that aren't afraid to be innovative,” said Alan Barr, president of the company’s board of directors. “That's how we will continue to succeed in cultivating profitable business relationships.”

By putting integrity, collaboration and innovation at the front of the work it does, Chippewa Government Solutions builds the Tribe’s economic success and supports the Sault Ste. Marie region, all while earning a spot on the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch in 2023.

Read the Chippewa Government Solutions Success Story

Diversification for Long-Term Self-Sufficiency

The Waséyabek Development Company, LLC (WDC) is a 100% Tribal-owned holding company managing the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi’s non-gaming economic development activities. By developing a diversified economy, WDC supports the Band’s mission for long-term sustainability and economic self-sufficiency in their communities.

“Tribes practice seven-generation thinking, so we are buying companies to hold, grow and develop over seven generations,” said Deidra Mitchell, president and CEO of the WDC. “When we move into a community with a business, we are interested in growing that community and being good partners, because we're going to be together for the next seven generations.”


Read how two companies overcame barriers to growth by partnering with Waséyabek and the MEDC’s Tribal Grant program, and listen to the podcast episode to hear Mitchell explain the nearly $290-million-dollar impact the 12 Tribes have on the state.

Listen to The Michigan Opportunity episode

12 Tribes Make One Effective Force

Each of the 12 Tribes in Michigan has its own priorities, but shared goals help their communities reach new economic successes. Whatever the focus, from education to economic diversification, the Tribes share strategies, lessons learned and large-scale projects.

“One of the great things that we've seen in the last couple of years is several Tribes in Michigan actually going in on projects together, working together hand in hand,” said Paul Bussey, vice president of operations for Grand Traverse Engineering and Construction. “And I can't think of a time where there was any resistance to sharing information amongst each other. Even in the business world, we don't really look at each other as competitors.”

Listen to Bussey, Anton Matye, president of Bay Shore Steel Works, LLC and Tom Durkee, director of Tribal Business Development at the MEDC, discuss the unique relationship shared by the Tribes to increase prosperity across the state.

Listen to The Michigan Opportunity episode

Sovereign Tribes and Statewide Support

Visit The Michigan Opportunity podcast page and the Michigan Business Success Stories page to learn more about the economic success of Michigan’s 12 federally recognized Tribes. You can also learn more about Tribal efforts across Michigan in a Q&A with Durkee, who discusses the collaborative relationship between the Tribes and the MEDC to support business development beyond gaming; attending the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe’s annual Powwow on their tribal grounds in Mt. Pleasant; and the work the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and GreenTree Cooperative Grocery to raise awareness, educate shoppers and foster a connection with Indigenous foods.

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