The week we were in Forest County Potawatomi Country went so fast because we were constantly kept busy by our hosts – learning the Native language and history of the Potawatomi in Wisconsin; staying in a Northwoods log cabin; making Native crafts and eating all the delicious food provided. It included the heady scent of sweet grass soap and scoring a pair of handcrafted beaded earrings from a First Nation vendor of Canada. There were t-shirts galore and lots of giveaways at the powwow. Life was great while we were in the land of lakes.
It was a deeply moving experience to hear the native Bodewadmimwen voices speak our original language and request we keep it alive by learning it ourselves and taking on the responsibility of teaching the children.
Tales of Potawatomi life and agriculture from more than a century ago helped us picture in our mind what the ancestors went through to preserve our heritage for today.
Holding the newly published Potawatomi-English language dic-tionary in my hands was a proud moment. I acknowledged the massive effort by the team of linguistic experts in Forest County to compile a document that keeps our written and spoken language a living thing. I was able to say “migwetch” to many of them in person for all the hard work done over the years for our benefit.
Hearing the youth talk about positive Potawatomi values and traditions at their very own conference was a refreshing experience. They discussed the use of Native stereotypes in popular culture and sports teams, and the negative effect it has on the self-esteem of our young people.
Colorful regalia swirled around the powwow arena for two nights representing all the styles of the Potawatomi bands from the woodlands. A highlight of the week was renewed acquaintances with friends met at previous Gatherings. Potawatomi from 10 nations gathered in Carter, Wisconsin from all over North America to join together – mindful of the past, proud of the present and hopeful for the future. I’m eternally grateful to have been a small part of it all.