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Language, with Justin Neely

Will you tell them you stood idly by while our language and way of life disappeared? There are less than 10 first language speakers of Potawatomi anywhere in the world with an average age of 79. We have little time to change the future. What are you going to do?

We have onsite classes in Shawnee, Okla. and online classes. We also have recordings, manuals, and a dictionary online at www.potawatomi.org and www.potawatomiheritage.org. I can hear some of you now telling yourselves, “but I’m too old,”  “I’m not good with languages,” or that you’re just too busy.

It makes me think of the saying a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. You will never regret taking that step and learning some of your language. It doesn’t matter if you think you can or not. Even if you learn a couple of phrases you can use with your family, you are doing your part. Don’t cut yourself short. You can learn your language if you want.

Our onsite classes are Mondays from 5-6 p.m. and Thursdays from 3:30-5 p.m.at the CPN Cultural Heritage Center. Our online classes are Tuesday evenings, the first starts at 7:00 p.m. Central Standard Time while the second begins at 8:20 p.m. This allow folks anywhere in the country to join in. To sign in, please go to www.instantpresenter.com/potawatomi3.

On February 20, we will hold our annual Winter Storytelling Festival at the Cultural Heritage Center from 6-8 p.m. Come out and learn some of our traditional stories. Many of them, especially those involving Wiske or Nanabozho, are only to be told in the Winter. Both this and last month’s Hownikan had winter stories created by the Language Department.

Occasionally we get folks who ask about how to get a Potawatomi name. Once you have been named, if you feel comfortable performing the ceremony, we can assist you with choosing names once you know what you want to name your relation. In the old days it was often the oldest member of a family or an elder in the community who would name a person. The most important thing is that if someone wants you to name them, they must offer you tobacco. You should then take that tobacco and pray with it until you know what name to give them. Time is unimportant if you want to do it right. It might take a month, three months, six months, or a year to come up with the correct name to give that person.

We have been updating our already impressive 5,000 word dictionary by adding sound files, example sentences and categorizing words. By categorizing the words a person can get a list of trees, mammals, different types of verbs and even words which have similar endings. We hope this new feature will make the upcoming edition of the dictionary even more functional and useful for those using it. One category we have in the upcoming dictionary is common words/ phrases, some of which you can find below.

• Anet- Some (ah nit)
• Ayanet- some of each. (ay ah nit)
• Cho- no  (Choe)
• Cho ngoji- Nowhere.  ( Chone go gee)
• Gaga- soon (Gah gah)
• Dokem- Be quiet  ( Doe kum)
• Gnebech- perhaps/ maybe (Gne bitch)
• Kyenep- Hurry  (Kay nup)
• Migwetch- Thanks (Mee gwehch)
• Igwien- Thanks (heartfelt) (EE gwee in)
• Nasena- Be careful (nah sin ah)
• Ngoji- somewhere (Ngo gee)
• Shkena- Geez! Dang! (shkay nah)
• Nekshe- Look (at something/someone) (Nuk shay)
• Shode- Here (show duh)
• Pene- always (Pin ay)