Chairperson Kenneth Meshigaud: NMAI’s Meet Native America Series
Who inspired you as a mentor?
I’ve had many mentors over the years from administrators who were my bosses or supervisors when I entered the workforce in my community to teachers and community members. But the person I consider my greatest teacher and mentor was my brother-in-law, Jake McCullough Jr. When I was three years old, my mother passed away, and the state welfare department felt it was in the best interest to place my younger brother and me in foster homes; they felt my father could not handle such young children.
Well, my family would not have it. So my older sister, Marylou decided to take us in. Her husband, Jake, acted for a time as my father. He, along with my sister, raised my brother and me during those very formative years and taught us life lessons that I still cling to today. The lessons of self-respect, thinking before acting, and caring for your brothers and sisters are the greatest teachings he ever gave me. He later became the tribal chairperson for our community and inspired me to do the same. Not by his saying it in words, but by my watching his actions and role modeling I later came to realize that I wanted to follow in his footsteps.
Are you a descendant of a historical leader? If so, who?
I am told that I am a descendant of Chief Simon Kahquados, who I am told was the last heredity chief of the Potawatomi. Best known as the Great Communicator, he would regularly travel to cities and towns outside the community and speak to non-Indian people to educate them about the community in hopes that it would build trust and foster good relationships.
Approximately how many citizens are in your community?
There are currently 905 enrolled members of the Hannahville Indian Community.
What are the criteria to become enrolled in Hannahville?
Every person who wishes to be an enrolled member of the community must be half or more Indian blood. Our constitution and by-laws spell out membership criteria and, and as for many communities, the criteria are each unique to our tribe.
To read the full interview, visit the NMAI series here.
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