By Tesia Zientek, Department of Education Director

During this period of uncertainty and distance, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Department of Education has focused our efforts on creating widoktadwen (community) among our Potawatomi students. We continue to administer Tribal scholarships for the summer semester through the June 15 deadline and provide individualized advising. We have also started to host weekly Zoom gatherings for our students to connect virtually.

On April 6, 2020, we hosted our first ever virtual talking circle. More than two dozen Citizen Potawatomi students from all over the United States joined us to share their experiences and thoughts. Because we interact with several students primarily through email and phone, it was an incredible opportunity to put names with faces and watch connections being made between students. After this successful gathering, we sent a survey to our current students asking for their feedback on hosting future virtual events.

Based on that survey feedback, we scheduled a nine-session weekly series entitled Bodéwadmi Kkendasot Mawjeshnowenen (Potawatomi Student Meetings). Our survey responses suggested that students were interested in three types of gatherings: talking circles, educational presentations and fun game activities. We have scheduled a variety of sessions to meet these needs.

On April 23, 2020, we hosted another talking circle. Will McCurley, Potawatomi Leadership Program alum and current Haskell student, explained and demonstrated smudging, CPN Education Department Director Justin Neely gave a brief language lesson, and then we hosted an emotional talking circle. On the following Thursday, April 30, 2020, five bright, successful Citizen Potawatomi students — Alyssa Frey, Nick Smith, Heath Steward, Elan Pochedley and Paulina Davison — presented on the Cobell Scholarship, Indian Health Service Scholarship, Bureau of Indian Affairs Pathway Program, the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the GEM Fellowship. We streamed this Zoom live on the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Facebook page, so you can watch the recording there. Students can also log on to for a link to the recording. Finally, on May 7, 2020, we had a fantastic time de-stressing with the students who joined us for several rounds of bingo and a Zoom background contest.

We look forward to the remainder of this series and hope that students continue to join us as their schedule allows. All students should receive the Zoom links via their email associated with the portal, but if anyone is not getting that correspondence, we invite them to contact us for that information. Although this period has been stressful and scary, we are grateful for the creative ways we have been able to connect and be inspired by our students who have persevered through this difficult time. If anyone has any questions for the CPN Department of Education, we welcome contact at or 405-695-6028.