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.