Vieux family member Jennifer Dye and her daughter Irene shared the history and culture of the Citizen Potawatomi people to Irene’s second grade class at Academie Lafayette – a French immersion charter school in Kansas City, Missouri. There, students are taught using the French language in all subjects.

Part of the second grade Missouri learning standards include Native American history, so each student in the class was to give a presentation about a tribe, including information about the tribe’s culture, history, clothing, housing, toys, language and ways of living. In order to help Irene’s classmates understand the expectations for their projects, Irene’s second grade teacher Madame Marie-Louise Sock asked she and her mother to present first about the Citizen Potawatomi.

“I don’t feel comfortable sharing information about a culture just because I have read something in a book,” said Madame Sock. “This is why Irene and her mom’s presentation was priceless. They were in class as ambassadors of their tribe. It was amazing to have a real representative of the tribe come to class, talk about the culture and share objects.”

Dye and Irene discussed the Trail of Death and the travels from the Great Lakes region to the tribe’s current location in Oklahoma. They also shared the story of the Bourbonnais cabin and the legend of the Bourbonnais family possibly hiding the outlaw Jesse James and his gang. The students learned basic greetings in Potawatomi and sang the wellknown song “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes” in Potawatomi. 

“Being students who speak French all day, they were excited to learn about the French history in our tribe,” Dye said. “The students were very engaged and asked great questions.” 

According to Dye, Madame Sock is a favorite teacher of Irene and her classmates, who makes learning hands on and fun for the students and families. She is a master of meeting education with the magic of childhood.

“These students are American but they are in an immersion school where they learn using the French language,” Madame Sock said. “The students are open minded because they are exposed to other cultures with all the teachers coming from different countries around the world.”

Dye believes it is important to give her children the experiences to understand many cultures, especially the ones they are a part of, like Citizen Potawatomi and French, to see that love is the same in every language, regardless of our visible differences.

“To give my girls, Irene and Abby, the experience of as many cultures as we can encounter is priceless,” Dye said. “Irene has teachers at Academie Lafayette from all over the world, including France and countries throughout Africa. My hope is that my girls learn to love in every language, become culturally aware and sensitive, and be global thinkers who can impact the world in ways I haven’t even dreamed possible.”