The Potawatomi form of government was localized with little central political organization. Generally, they did not have a chief of the entire tribe. They organized themselves into patrilineal clans, and a senior male of the major clan led each village separately. He held this position because of his seniority, the amount of respect he commanded and his ability to influence his clan with his decisions.
The decentralized governmental structure resulted in many autonomous, village-based groups throughout the tribal territory. One consequence of this lack of central unity was that local groups would sign conflicting land treaties. One group might sign a treaty with the government for a tract of land that another had not ceded. This led to disputes between different local groups at times.
Group decision-making for major undertakings was a slow, laborious process. War and large-scale changes were undertakings that warranted such group decision-making. After the leaders involved in the decision-making process had discussed the pros and cons and had reached a decision, the people cemented their commitment to the decision with a feast. In this manner everyone participated, and no one individual was able to dictate to others. Only in particular circumstances, such as making a compact or conducting intertribal warfare, might the village leaders choose a single man from among them to represent everyone.