The Gathering of Potawatomi Nations is hosted each summer by one of the nine tribes of Potawatomi, providing an opportunity for members of all tribes to come together and celebrate their Potawatomi heritage. It includes a language conference, cultural workshops, youth events, crafting classes, sporting events, and language classes. - Citizen Potawatomi Cultural Center
Save the Date: July 24-29 for the Gathering of Potawatomi Nations
Reclaiming Language is Reclaiming our Wholeness
We are a week away from the 2023 Gathering of Potawatomi Nations and we have a special edition of Community Connections. When my father was 5 years old, he was adopted away from our family and tribe. We have been searching for our family for the majority of our adult lives, and last year we found them through Ancestry DNA. As we reconnect with our family and culture, learning our Potawatomi language has brought more healing than words can describe. We are weaving together a new tapestry for ourselves and the generations to come. We will be traveling across the country from Texas and Arkansas to Michigan for our first family reunion and this year's Gathering of Potawatomi Nations.
In this Community Connections special feature, Advanced Language Specialist Carla Collins shares the importance of reclaiming language and resources developed by the tribe.
We didn’t give our language up because our lives were coming into a new way of life and we didn’t need it anymore, we lost our language because the Government put programs in place to eradicate our language and our view of the world. Compliance happens when everyone has the same programmed mindset. They couldn’t control our mindset when our view of the world was so different so they found a way to silence our views. Now we have generations of people that feel lost because they don’t have the same views as the people around them. They don’t know why they feel differently, or what exactly is missing. Once they begin to learn their language, they can feel voids become less empty. - Carla Collins, Advanced Language Specialist
The last week in July we have the Potawatomi Gathering and the Potawatomi Language Conference. This is an annual event and always occurs the last week of July. It moves from one Potawatomi Community to another. This year it will be in Battle Creek at the Firekeepers Casino. In 2024 the Gathering will be held in Dowagiac Michigan (Pokagon Band area) or Hopkins Michigan (Gun Lake area).
Tell us about your organization and the work you do in your community.
I work for the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians located in Dowagiac Michigan. We have roughly 6000 tribal members. I am the Advanced Language Specialist. I’m also Vice President for the non-profit Bodwéwadmimwen Ėthë Ték, which translates to ‘The Centerr for Potawatomi Language.
What is your why? Why is your work important to you?
Language work is important to me because I am a Potawatomi person and it is my inherent responsibility to provide for our future as a whole. We were given a gift by the creator and that gift was to be born Neshnabé. We should be looking to the ones before us for guidance on how to be living our lives. We can’t go back to the old ways of living, but we can still learn how they viewed the world through the language. The language keeps us grounded to the earth and what she provides and opens our eyes to more than what is directly in front of us. When our eyes are open, we can appreciate life in a way that was meant for us Neshnabé to see, and not through another cultures lenses.
What is something you want people to know about your role/organization or community?
That we exist still.
What advice do you have for someone who is just starting to learn?
I feel like they should do it. It might not be an easy route, but if you want to become fluent, or semi-fluent, then you just have to get out there and exhaust your study materials and any opportunities you get to attend classes. Learning isn’t easy and it can be frustrating, but you’re only going to get as far as you make yourself get. Also, it’s not always a struggle, it can be funny, and fulfilling too. It is growth. we exist still
What legacy do you hope to pass on to generations to come or what message do you have for the youth in your community?
Always try to learn your language. Your outside body will grow on its own, but your inner soul is always a work in progress. If you find yourself unhappy, or feeling like you don’t belong, or like life is missing something, then a lot of times, learning your language will help. Parts are missing that should be there.
Any other information you would like to share?
One of the most underutilized programs in my opinion is the Mango App. We have a free Potawatomi course on there that is 10 chapters long. It’s at mangolanguages.com
Find us on Social Media
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians
Facebook: Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians
Bodwéwadmimwen Ėthë ték
The mission of Bodwéwadmimwen Ėthë ték is to preserve and facilitate the use of the Potawatomi language.
The Gathering of Potawatomi is open to enrolled members of the following Potawatomi Tribes and Invited Guests, register here:
Citizen Potawatomi Nation Prairie Band of Potawatomi Indians Hannahville Indian Community Forest County Potawatomi Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians of Michigan (Gun Lake Tribe) Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi
CANADIAN FIRST NATIONS
ADDITIONAL FIRST NATIONS:
In addition to the 9 listed bands of Potawatomi, Potawatomi leaders in 2010 recognized two more Canadian First Nations:
Skye Howell (she/her) is Potawatomi and Ottawa, a proud mother, wife, and volunteer in her community. She is an Organizational Consultant with Full Humanity, an Equity Advocate, Curriculum Designer, Keynote Speaker, and Storyteller. You can also find her on Medium. If you enjoyed reading this and want to support my efforts — you can buy me a coffee to help me write more stories. Your support makes a difference.