As the Citizen Potawatomi Nation has grown in recent years, concerns about Potawatomi traditions and practices have come to the forefront in many conversations amongst Tribal members. Though many traditions are passed down from family elders, those living twenty first century lifestyles may feel like it’s a difficult task to adhere to practices developed before the Industrial Revolution.
Here are a few ways to connect with your Potawatomi culture in your every-day life.
• Using prayer every day is one of the most simple, yet most meaningful ways to incorporate Potawatomi culture into everyday life. This is a way to stop, breathe and take that moment of silence that relaxes the mind.
“Put a basket of tobacco next to your door and when you go out every day take a pinch of the tobacco and put it down on the ground and say your prayers,” explained Dr. Kelli Mosteller, director of the CPN Cultural Heritage Center. “It’s a good way to thank the Creator, start your day and ask for any healing you need.”
Tobacco is one of the four sacred medicines and is what the Potawatomi use for their prayers, putting tobacco on a fire and the smoke carries the prayers up to the Creator.
‘’Tobacco is the manifestation of a gift the Creator gave the Potawatomi,” said Dr. Mosteller. “It’s the act of holding the tobacco in your hands and saying your prayers and putting it down to Earth.”
Tobacco can be put down anywhere and a fire isn’t needed to use it. However, make sure it’s out of the area of a pathway.
• Use the Potawatomi language every day, even if it is something simple like, bozho (hello). Try using it with someone who isn’t Potawatomi. That can open the door to sharing something about CPN. Try and use the language any way possible, even if it’s only a word or two.
Starting or finishing a tribal craft is a great way to relax and let the tensions of the world go. Make a sweet grass basket or work on regalia.
“Put effort into something you can be proud of that represents your tribe,” said Dr. Mosteller. “At the end of the day, it’s a rewarding way to get closer with your culture.”
• Respecting and honoring elders is a way of understanding the continuation of life. Consider that choices made are going to impact the generation that follows. Thanking the Creator for what he has given the Earth. Stop and think about the ways of life the Potawatomi should have inherited from their ancestors. Be aware that these methods are not hype, but a way of being a part of the world.
• Finally, take part in seasonal activities. Winter stories are a good time to tell old traditions with family, friends or anyone. Memoirs of the past are great to tell to children because the stories have good moral undertone. Most Potawatomi stories have a meaning behind them which teach how to behave in a socially acceptable way.
For more information on incorporating Potawatomi culture into everyday life please contact the Cultural Heritage Center at 405-878-5830.