February is a short month and usually a very busy time. I’m always catching up on the prior year while trying to get my current year underway. Generally, my office desk is full of income tax receipts while I am still trying to pay off Christmas purchases. This year is no different.
As I think ahead to warmer weather, I am tentatively planning a late-summer members’ meeting in northern Wyoming or eastern Idaho. I am also considering breaking the pattern of alternating between Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, for the fall feast in November.
After getting input from members, we might move this year’s meeting midway, in Olympia, Washington, and make it earlier in the day to accommodate the short days of November. Several elders are hesitant to drive at night. If you have a strong opinion about this, I’d love to hear from you.
As the winter wears on and some of us are stuck inside due to inclement weather, consider keeping yourself busy by making an original piece of Potawatomi art or regalia. There are many kits available for hand drums, medicine bags, moccasins, jewelry and more. Two websites I have been very pleased with are Centralia Fur and Hide (furandhide.com) and Crazy Crow Trading Post (crazycrow.com). You can also order from the Citizen Potawatomi Gift Shop (giftshop.potawatomi.org).
Another winter activity of our ancestors was storytelling. In a 2015 Hownikan article, CPN Cultural Heritage Center Director Kelli Mosteller discussed the significance of winter storytelling in our lives as tribal members.
“Mosteller explained that the point of such stories is to show that there are consequences for those who don’t adhere to the rules and practices of their respective communities,” according to the 2015 Hownikan story. “Traditional winter tales offer opportunity to teach culture and history.
“Whether the characters were traipsing through the dark, forbidding forests of the Grimm’s 19th century Germany or Nanabozho creating chaos in the Great Lakes region as told by precontact Potawatomi, the point was to drive home the notion that there were consequences to impetuous actions which could negatively impact the wider community,” it continued. “Most of the Potawatomi winter tales involve Nanabozho or Wiske, who is a trickster character, usually in the shape of a man with rabbit ears.”
Mosteller further explained how European contact and removal from ancestral lands affected these stories and other traditions. As tribal members were forced from the snowy forests, icy rivers and lakes to the plains of Kansas, the animals featured in the winter stories were simply not around.
Family Reunion Festival
As you are dreaming of warmer weather and planning your year, consider making the trip to the Family Reunion Festival in Shawnee, Oklahoma, at the end of June. Honored families this year are Anderson, Beaubien, Bertrand, Bourbonnais, Ogee, Pettifer, Toupin, Wano and Yott.
If you are a member of these founding families, it would be an especially good year to make the trip.