‘Our history is real’ – Cultural Heritage Center reopening cultivates community, family and identity
March 14, 2018
Eagle guests play, relax during aviary visit
March 16, 2018

Language update

Submitted by Justin Neely, CPN Language Department director

Bozho jayek
(Hello everyone),

By the time this comes out, we will have hosted our annual Winter Storytelling event. We also broadcast it live on Facebook this year. You should still be able to access the archived version by joining the group Potawatomi Language, and then finding the post about Winter Storytelling.

We here in the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Language Department are doing everything we can to make the language accessible to our tribal members. This is our fifth or sixth year to host the Winter Storytelling event.. We have certain stories which traditionally are only supposed to be told in the winter. In the wintertime, traditionally, we believe the spirits and the earth are asleep. So we tell stories which involve Wiske or Nanabozho the trickster.

Youth grant

We recently applied for and received a $5,000 Endangered Language Fund grant from Yale University. This money will allow us to create a children’s series in Potawatomi. We will be developing a 15-part series for children through age 4. This is one area we feel we needed to address more. This is a one-year grant, but we hope to reapply next year to do a show for older youth. We hope to develop some kind of storyline like Dora or Sesame Street.

If you go to potawatomi.org and click on the language tab, you can also access our children’s page, which has tons of videos for learning the language. To make these videos even more widely available, they are also available on YouTube by searching “Potawatomi Language Kids.” There are about 107 of them right now — songs, stories, skits, cultural teachings and topic-based lessons.

Online learning

Another tool we created that we hope folks will enjoy is a course on the app Memrise. You can download Memrise from the app store and then find Potawatomi phrases. The course has 12 levels right now. It’s pretty fun to use. It also has a leaderboard so you can have some friendly competition with other family and friends.

We are also continuing to have a nice number of folks enroll in our online course at language.potawatomi.org. For those who prefer a structured learning environment, this is the course for you. The nice thing is you can access the material anytime and anywhere. To date, almost 750 people have tried out the course. There is a beginner I, which is 20 chapters; beginner II, which is 20 chapters; and an intermediate course, which is 10 chapters.

Public schools

We are midway through our last semester of language being offered at Wanette High School this school year. This is an exciting development because we have been certified by the state of Oklahoma to teach the language in the public school system. In the future, we should be able to teach the language in other Oklahoma school districts. There is some paperwork which must be done, so it takes a few months to set up.

We also continue teaching the language Monday-Thursday in our Child Development Center.

Cultural Heritage Center

We recently wrapped up a 10-week on-site beginner class at the Cultural Heritage Center. We had a good group join us, and we look to start another beginner course this spring, so stay posted for more information or contact us if you would like us to let you know. Reach me at jneely@potawatomi.org. This course will also be available live on Facebook. We want to make sure that our tribal members living away from Oklahoma have opportunities to learn the language.

As many of you are aware, the Cultural Heritage Center recently reopened. We helped with the language that is in the museum. We have discussed putting many of the video kiosks in Potawatomi and English. That way, if you come to the museum and prefer to listen to the story in Potawatomi, you can. There is presently a language kiosk with a matching game located by the gift shop as you make your way out of the museum.

Another important role we serve in the language department is the preservation of the language. We recently received a generous donation of language tapes of speakers both teaching and speaking the language. We also digitized the audio tapes for future safekeeping. We have, from time to time, converted Potawatomi Language VHS tapes into a digital format, as well. If you or your family have any older recordings of the language, we would be happy to assist you in digitalizing and preserving them for future generations.

We here in the language department hope you will take an opportunity to use some of these numerous tools to learn the language.

Learn more at potawatomi.org/language.