By Justin Neely, Director of the CPN Language Department
It has been a busy buys season for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Language Department. Our new online dictionary, at potawatomidictionary.com, has been getting over 100 unique views daily. The dictionary is downloadable in the Google App store. We are also working on developing a PDF downloadable version.
We recently started a Potawatomi Youth Choir. We have currently about 12 kids participating. They have been learning different Christmas songs in the language. They have been working on Silver Bells, Frosty the Snowman, We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Let It Snow. We shared some of the songs on our Potawatomi Language Facebook group around Christmas. By the time this comes out, the kids will have performed at the Foster Parent Appreciation Dinner, the Oklahoma Indian Education Conference hosted at the Grand Casino Hotel & Resort as well as Christmas caroling with our adult language class at elders housing and Citizen Place North. As part of our caroling, we also collected canned goods to be added to the Tribe’s annual Christmas boxes for those less fortunate. Later in the year, we are going to teach the kids different traditional songs and modern hits in Potawatomi. If you are interested in getting your child involved, it’s never too late. We also plan on taking them to the Oklahoma Native American Language Fair at the University of Oklahoma in April.
We just wrapped up a three month Potawatomi Beginner Class. We had a great turnout, topping out at about 30 folks. We will try and offer our next beginner class on-site at the Cultural Heritage Center around March. This February, we will be hosting our annual Winter Storytelling event where we share several stories that we can only tell in the wintertime. We haven’t picked a date but are leaning toward Feb. 24 or 25. Watch the CPN Facebook page and event calendar at potawatomi.org/events for the event announcement.
The children in the Child Development Center did an excellent job with their Christmas program. The 3-year-olds sang Frosty the Snowman, the 4-year-olds sang Silver Bells, the afterschool participants sang Let it Snow, and for the first time, the 2-year-olds sang We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
Another exciting project we wrapped up was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in Potawatomi. The movie is in public domain, so we were able to put the entire 50 minute movie into Potawatomi. View it on our Facebook page: cpn.news/langfb.
The language department also participated in the Angel Tree event at First National Bank, singing several Christmas songs with Dewegen Kwek, the Potawatomi ladies hand drum group.
Our men’s drum group — Sengo Zibiwes — made our first public performance, drumming the Flag Song and Veterans’ Song to lead our veterans in for posting the colors. This was a very historic and awesome moment. We have been working hard on a number of songs and hope to be able to do some at this upcoming Family Reunion Festival. If you are interested in drumming, we have been working on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 to 5 p.m. at the CHC.
The Shawnee Board of Education approved the offering of our Potawatomi language high school course in the Shawnee school district. It is currently available in Wanette and Tecumseh, and we have had interest from Maud as well as the University of Oklahoma. If we can get it offered at OU, it would give us a new collegiate partner since the closing of St. Gregory’s University. We currently have the ability to offer the course anywhere in Oklahoma. It will count toward a world language credit, which is needed for graduation. So, if your child would like to see it offered in their high school, let your school administration know it’s available, and there is no cost to the district.
We have a number of projects we are currently working on, including some books in Potawatomi and English, the transcription and analysis of Joseph N. Bourassa’s medicinal journal as a cooperative effort with Kaya DeerInWater, and then with the assistance for a museum exhibit with the Tribal archive department and Blake Norton. Our dictionary is growing daily in the number of audio files, example sentences, cultural information, images, and words themselves. When we first launched it, we had about 8,400 words. It has grown to more than 9,000 and changes weekly.
I just want to acknowledge and say migwetch (thank you) to my awesome staff who makes our many projects possible. Robert Collins (Delonais family), Shelby Hobia (Curley family), Ragan Marsee (Higbee family), and Michael Kelehar, our awesome part-time video guy.
Look for our upcoming Winter Storytelling event in February; it’s always a good time had by all.