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Village Exhibit provides look at Potawatomi past

The Village Exhibit at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center provides museum guests with a glimpse of Potawatomi culture. The exhibit features the daily life of Potawatomi before we were removed from the Great Lakes region.

“Being so far removed from the Great Lakes, many are unaware of traditional Potawatomi ways of life,” said curator Blake Norton. “From home construction and agricultural practices to seasonal and spiritual activities, we feel that our village exhibit illustrates a well-rounded variety. This is a great way for our visitors to immerse themselves and understand how older generations survived.”

The Village Exhibit is center stage at the Heritage Center, taking up the largest portion of the museum floor and providing examples of housing, farming and lifeways of the pre-removal Potawatomi.

“The wigwam was created by hand and on-site using eastern white cedar, tamarack, basswood and birch bark that were harvested in Michigan and transported to Oklahoma.  The structure was built without using modern elements, like nails or glue.  This traditional Potawatomi housing was one of several seasonal dwellings used throughout the year. “Given that we are in a prairie environment and among such tribal communities, many have the misconception that all Native Americans lived in tipis.,” added Norton. “However, Potawatomi commonly migrated throughout the year in accordance with the seasons. Doing so, numerous and various styled homes were constructed.”

The exhibit also highlights maple syrup creation, farming and fishing.

“The exhibit is more than a look into the past. It also serves as a testament to the necessary adaptations made post removal. Transitioning from a seasonally-nomadic existence that included a combination of hunting, gathering and agriculture to a sedentary agrarian life definitely created challenges. Throughout the transition, certain ways of life altered, while others were lost completely, but many have survived to this day,” added Norton.

“We farmed, fished and collected maple syrup in the North and had to adjust once we moved to Oklahoma. We had to learn a new way to survive and a lot of those older skills and traditions have been lost because of that. This exhibit is a reminder of more than how we lived in the past, but also of what a shock it must have been to move from the wooded areas with abundant lakes and rivers of the North to the prairies of Kansas and Oklahoma,” added Norton.

This exhibit, and others at the Cultural Heritage Center, is open to the public Tue through Fri from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sat 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The collection housed at the Cultural Heritage Center serves to educate, promote and preserve the history of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s founding families. Both contemporary and traditional objects on display bridge the gap between tribal history and the revitalization of traditional teachings, tribal art forms and the gradual progression of the cultural transformation of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.