The completion of the 30,000-square-foot Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians’ Justice Center marks the culmination of a long-term vision to centralize Pokagon government operations in Dowagiac and co-locate their law enforcement operations and Tribal Court.
Construction of the facility began in September 2018 and took about 15 months to finish.
The center blends modern features with traditional elements used in their culture to resolve conflicts, such as circular designs. Traditionally, the way that the Pokagon Band resolved conflicts and disputes was by bringing people together, and typically it would be on the circle, hence the construction of a circular courtroom. Within a circle, there are equal voices and an equal opportunity around the circle for everyone to participate.
The Pokagon Tribal Court and Peacemaking Center houses five court staff and includes important and historical features that previous generations of Pokagon citizens used in peacemaking and restorative justice practices in community conflict resolution, including an outdoor peacemaking circle, and indoor healing fire room, and the circular courtroom. These purpose-built facilities offer space for cultural activities as well as places for elders, veterans, and other groups to host talking circle or gatherings.
A unique feature of the Peacemaking Center’s indoor healing room are the different types of wood used on each of the four quadrants, which represent the four peacemaking values: maple is used on the north wall, oak on the east, walnut on the south, and cherry on the west. Our project team tied in this concept to the circular courtroom, using the corresponding woods to trim each of the four doors on the north, east, south, and west walls.
The Pokagon Tribal Police Headquarters contains workspace for up to 20 police officers. The facility also includes dedicated space for training, evidence, interview rooms, holding cells, conference space, and lockers and changing areas for officers.
The materials used on this project included naturally bent white oaks provided by WholeTrees Structures, a national leader in engineering of round timber for commercial construction. These timbers were used to create the Moon Pavilion and sunshade on the south side of the facility. For the sunshade, round timber columns and beams intersect with curved glulam beams, creating a warm and dynamic entry space. 3D scans were utilized to verify that the structural components, like curved branches, would correctly connect to their bases and other connections.