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Language with Justin: November

Submitted by Justin Neely

It’s been a busy fall for Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Language Department. We are offering a 10-week beginner class 5:30-7 p.m. every Wednesday through Nov. 22 at the CPN Cultural Heritage Center in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Students learn songs and play games as part of the learning process. Some Potawatomi-language games we have played so far are Pictionary and Uno. Last class, we had a great turnout — even though it was raining outside, we still had over 60 attendees. RSVP by emailing jneely@potawatomi.org or calling 878-5830, ext. 7135. One very exciting aspect of the program is that we stream the classes live on the Potawatomi Language group on Facebook. Because of this, we have had an additional 40-70 people join us each class. They are also archived on Facebook so folks can watch them later. Learn more at cpn.news/facebook and potawatomi.org/language.

School credit

We are also well into our first semester of teaching the Potawatomi language for credit in Wanette High School. We worked with the school district and Oklahoma Department of Education with the support of our Tribal administration and are now certified to teach the language anywhere in Oklahoma. If other school districts would be interested in offering the language in their schools, please contact the language department so we can start working on this for the next school year. We appreciate the kids and administration in Wanette for partnering with us in this historic endeavor.

Online learning

Our online self-paced classes are being well utilized. We have had almost 700 people sign up to use the program. We developed this so that no matter where a person lives or what time they have available they have the opportunity to learn the language. We have Beginner I, Beginner II and Intermediate courses. To join, simply go to language.potawatomi.org. Once there, you will need to create a login and then wait for us to confirm you. We have to do this to cut back on spam. The courses are broken into 20 chapters on different topics in the language. A couple of areas that have been extremely popular are cultural teachings with puppets at the end of each chapter; games such as hangman, crossword puzzles and matching used to reinforce the material; and the various movie spoofs in Potawatomi like Forrest Gump, Despicable Me, Finding Nemo and others.

Youth programming

Our staff is working hard in partnership with the Tribe’s Child Development Center to ensure the next generation learns our language. Enedina Banks and Randy Schlachtun are doing an awesome job teaching 2, 3 and 4-year-old children the language. We are also teaching it in the afterschool program. We teach four days a week in the child development center.

Also made available by the Language Department is a children’s page. The children’s page is designed around an interactive image of a town, and kids click on different buildings. Once they click a building, a split screen shows them two rooms to pick from. Then, they click on different points in the rooms to open videos about language learning, cultural teachings, songs, movie spoofs and even some goofy videos which have nothing to do with language. The idea is to create a space where their natural curiosity can take over. To learn more, please visit cpn.news/lang.

We are also in our second semester of offering collegiate-level Beginner Potawatomi. The tribe works with St. Gregory’s University to make this awesome opportunity available. Students are able to take this course online as a part of their requirement for the St. Gregory’s scholarship or simply for college credit. We are working on trying to get Beginner II offered and would like to eventually offer Intermediate so students could take the three courses for their foreign language requirement for different degrees or so that, eventually, it can be a part of a minor in Potawatomi.

In closing, I would like to share a song we have been working on in class. It was originally the aim song and had words added to it by a group of Ojibwe elders. I translated it to Potawatomi. I believe it has a very powerful message. It can be sung on a hand drum or a powwow drum. This is one verse. You can sing it four times.