Play cast members in attendance were invited to the front of the room. From left are, Thomas Wabnum, Jackie Mitchell, Shawnot Evans, Mikta Pewamo, Rose Hale, Judy Wabaunsee, Mary Mitchell, Nikki Jackson, Joe Mitchell, Bill Evans, Daniel Martinez, Camilla Chouteau, Evan Evans and Sacto Evans.
On a cold, blustery March night about 60 members of the Prairie Band Potawatomi community gathered at the Prairie Band Casino and Resort Convention Center to watch the screening of the original play, “We Fought Termination.”
“We Fought Termination” recounts the actions of Minnie Evans and other Prairie Band tribal leaders as they faced up against the United States Congress in 1954 to save the tribe from federal termination. The U.S. Congress introduced Senate bill 2743 and House bill 7318 in the early 1950’s with the express intention to terminate the United States legal recognition of and obligation to certain American Indian tribes.
The original play was written by PBPN tribal member, Jackie Mitchell for the 2018 Potawatomi Gathering. Mitchell utilized the transcript from the congressional hearing that occurred on February 18, 1954, as a guide. At that hearing Minnie Evans, James Wahb-no-sah and John Wahwassuck delivered testimony on behalf of the Prairie Band Potawatomi tribe which ultimately saved the tribe from being federally terminated.
The play was performed live by an all Prairie Band cast, two times during the 2018 Potawatomi Gathering. Some actors in the play are descendants of those original tribal leaders. William “Bill” Evans, Evan Evans and his children Sacto and Shawnot Evans are the great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren of Minnie Evans. Zeke Rupnick played the role of his grandfather, John Wahwassuck.
Tribal member, Tara Mitchell holds up two copies of the CD, as tribal member, Gaynell Jessepe prepares to grab a copy.
The live presentations of the play were recorded and copyrighted and turned into a video. During the screening, copies of the play were made available by CD along with the option to request it on a jump drive. Tribal members can reach out to the Tribal Council Secretary’s office if they wish to request a copy.
Tribal member, Peggy Houston asks for clarification regarding the Indian Reorganization Act.
After the screening, host Thomas Wabnum recounted what the era was like and invited questions and comments from the crowd. During the conversation that followed, the crowd learned that a few young girls, inspired by the play, have used Minnie Evans in their school assignments as a historical figure. One student is Shawnot Evans, who portrayed her great-great grandma at the Royal Valley Middle School Kansas History Fair. Another is 7th-grade student Gishgo Hale, who received a 1st place win in the Junior Individual Documentary category for District 3 at the Kansas History Day. Hale has advanced to the state competition which will occur on April 27, 2019. And the third young woman is a middle school student from Lawrence, Kansas who also attended the screening.
The young student from Lawrence, Kansas asks what life was like for those living on the common land during the time of the termination legislation.
To conclude the evening, director Jackie Mitchell received an award for her hard work and efforts to write and direct the play, bestowed by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. Mitchell ended the event by reminding everyone that indigenous people have a right and responsibility to tell our stories.