Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Language Department has a small but dedicated staff of teachers who over the years have sought out new and technologically friendly ways of bringing the Potawatomi language to members. The fact remains that with headquarters in Oklahoma, many Citizen Potawatomi found themselves struggling to learn the language of their ancestors. However, through the use of federal grant funds secured by the CPN Office of Self-Governance, the language department under Justin Neely has expanded language learning opportunities to a much wider audience via the internet. The Hownikan spoke with Kaitlin Curtice of Georgia, who signed up her Potawatomi family for online language classes.
What Potawatomi family are you from?
“My ancestor is Hannah Brant.”
How did you learn about CPN’s online language classes?
“I was really interested in learning our language, so I was looking around the website and happened to find it.”
Why did you want to take them? What motivated you to enroll your kids?
“We live in Georgia. There’s not a native community here that I’ve connected with, so I am trying to learn it all on my own. Doing this online gives me a connection to our tribe in a really wonderful way despite the distance.
“It’s important that my children learn our culture. I didn’t grow up learning our ways, and I want them to — so we are learning together.”
As a user of CPN programs, why do you choose cultural lessons rather than a Rosetta Stone-like, more language-focused program?
“The cultural lessons are my favorite part of it. Because I wasn’t raised learning a lot about our culture, I don’t have a lot of the knowledge that others have. These videos have helped me learn so much; not just about our tribe, but about native peoples in general.
“I’m an author, so having this knowledge, being able to tell our stories and write them down — it’s so important to me. My boys love the puppets and the songs and the ideas given to them!”
As a member living away from tribal homeland, how does this online language course impact you in terms of staying connected with the Nation?
“It’s so important to me. What is most difficult is that I don’t have anyone to speak with, so it’s hard to learn on my own. But (with) everything that the online course gives me, I am able to connect to my own journey, to my writing, to my faith.
“It’s definitely something that I feel like I’m just learning piece by piece as I go along, not like immersion. It’s just what we need and I am so grateful I have it. Someday if we’re able to come back to Shawnee and I can show my boys where we are from, they will understand more because we have this program.”
How many hours a day or a week do you and the kids use it?
“We do it a few hours a week. We homeschool our children, so it’s nice to be able to incorporate it into our schooling. I wake them up with ‘Mno waben!’ (good morning) many mornings.”
To learn more about Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s online language courses, visit potawatomi.org/lang or call CPN Cultural Heritage Center at 405-878-5830.