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Legend says that Leopold Pokagon was the son of a Chippawa father and Ottawa mother, born around the year 1775. He was abducted from his Chippawa village by a Potawatomi chief and given to Chief Topenebee of the Potawatomi. He was given the name Pokagon because he was wearing a headdress which contained a human rib. The word Pokagon means "rib". However, books later written by his son, Simon, tend to refute this legend.

Simon Pokagon, son of Leopold, was born in an old Potawatomi village. When Simon was eleven years old, his father died and area settlers took the task of educating him. He eventually attended four years at Notre Dame, one year at Oberlin, and two years at Twinsburg College in Ohio. During his college career, Simon met and married a Potawatomi Indian girl named Lonidaw. They built a wigwam home of bark and poles in a stately wood near a crystal lake somewhere in Northern Indiana. Lake Lonidaw, in Pokagon State Park, got its name because it is said to resemble this legendary lake.

In treaties of 1826 and 1830, the Potawatomi tribe sold all their land which made up a large part of Northern Indiana and included the present site of Chicago. They were compensated with three cents an acre, which even at that time was considered an extremely small amount. It would be 70 years before they would be fully paid for the land. Following the treaty of 1830, the Potawatomi were evicted from the area and were relocated west of the Mississippi River to what is now Kansas. Leopold's band moved on their own to an area north of South Bend near Dowagiac, Michigan. In 1893, Simon Pokagon and his family attended the World's Fair in Chicago. It was there that Chief Pokagon transferred the deeds for the land. The occasion was a formality that was long overdue.

In 1925, after careful planning and negotiating, the residents of Steuben County purchased 580 acres along the shores of Lake James and Snow Lake. The land was tendered as a Christmas gift from the residents of Steuben County to the State of Indiana. Another additional 127 acres were added by the State to make a total of 707 acres.

Original construction of Potawatomi Inn1926 was the actual starting point of park construction. The park at that time consisted of 707 acres and was the third largest park in the state. After approximately two years, the twenty unit hotel (Potawatomi Inn) was completed, costing $3500.00 per unit. On February 23, 1927, Colonel Richard Lieber, State Conservation Commissioner suggested the name Pokagon after the Chief. By unanimous agreement, the park was officially named Pokagon State Park.

Original construction of Potawatomi InnOriginal construction of Potawatomi Inn

Most of the park construction was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps. (CCC) between 1934 and 1942. They constructed the roads, trails, camping units, walks, gate house, cabins, beach house, shelter house, Spring Shelter, Saddle Barn, and the first toboggan slide. In addition, they planted thousands of young trees.

The park presently has 1,260 acres of woods and shoreline. People come from all over the Midwest to enjoy the park and recreational activities offered all four seasons of the year.

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State Park Features

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