Author and artist Minisa Crumbo Halsey recently published Going to CPN Family Reunion, a book created for young readers. Crumbo Halsey collaborated with the CPN Language Department to publish the book.

Illustrated cover of "Going to CPN Family Reunion Festival" by Minisa Crumbo Halsey.

The daughter of famed Citizen Potawatomi artist Woodrow “Woody” Wilson Crumbo and Lillian Hogue Crumbo, Minisa was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and spent many years in both Oklahoma and in New Mexico.

Like many people did during the pandemic, Crumbo Halsey turned her energy to art and created a painting that inspired the idea for the book, she said.

“For two and a half years, I painted and wrote. I was painting a star series called Winter Maker. It’s a little boy and girl, and they are in traditional clothing. They have the four directions icons going all the way around them, and they’re standing beside the bank of the Canadian River beneath the Tree of Life,” she said. “It was from that I got the idea that they were going to have a family reunion.”

She is no stranger to the publishing process, having released three books: Spirit Talk, which examines the healthy and balanced relationship we have with Creator; Woody Crumbo, with contributions from Crumbo Halsey and published by the Gilcrease Museum; and The 13 Moons, an adult coloring book for artful meditations.

"Winter Maker" painting featuring two children beneath a tree. Icons of the four directions as well as wildlife and plants surround them.

She said the Annual CPN Family Reunion Festival means more, culturally, to the Nation than a typical social gathering like a powwow.

“That was why I really wanted to do it because that’s the whole idea of Family Reunion. It’s about coming to learn about making a drum, making moccasins, singing and learning some language,” she said. “We’re putting on the regalia and meeting people and dancing. We’re having traditional foods. That’s what the book is about.”

The CPN Language Department received a U.S. Department of Energy grant to publish 12 children’s books, so when Crumbo Halsey reached out to CPN, the timing was perfect, said Language Department Director Justin Neely.

“She had heard about what we were doing and reached out to me about a children’s book. And she had a lot of the artwork. She had basically designed it out, which is helpful because some people have an idea for a book but without any images or anything like that. But Minisa’s quite an artist, and it just kind of fell together and in a good way,” he said.

The Language Department contributed by adding Bodéwadmimwen to English translations and additional cultural content.

Both Crumbo Halsey and Neely hope the book spurs interest in those who have not attended a Family Reunion Festival but are interested in what goes on.

The book “really shows the beauty and the fun that goes into the Festival. A person who doesn’t live maybe locally or hasn’t been to Festival before can get a feel for the kinds of activities that you may encounter if you come,” Crumbo Halsey said.

“It’s a chance to both educate tribal members about what goes on here and get a sense of it because (Crumbo Halsey) also highlights some of the Tribe’s businesses and things like that,” Neely said. “It includes a kid’s perspective as well. I thought it was an interesting book idea.”

Crumbo Halsey said she hopes the book will spur interest in learning about Potawatomi culture and eventually create connections among generations, across distance and to Potawatomi ancestors.

“If we learn even a few words, it begins to shift our vibration and we have a connection. Just a few words, even just one word will suddenly provide the connection that we might not even be aware of,” she said. “The idea of the book was that a child could sit by a parent or a family member or friend. The family member probably is in the same position as the child. They’re living in Anaheim or Seattle or Phoenix. And they can learn at the same time.”

While Family Reunion Festival has been in existence for decades, there are still many Tribal members who have not attended. Neely hopes the book will encourage both young and old to make the trip to Shawnee, Oklahoma, and to learn more about the Nation.

The books are available through the Language Department, or by visiting the CPN Portal, where Tribal members can also order the other children’s books Neely’s department has recently published.

“If they go to the portal, there’s a way to order all of the children’s books,” he said.
Those ordering a book should keep in mind that the department uses bulk mailing to keep postage costs down, so it may take a while before orders are mailed out, Neely added.

Going to CPN Family Reunion and other children’s books also have a unique feature for those learning Bodéwadmimwen.

“You’re able to use the QR codes (on the book’s back cover) to read the book. You can click on the QR code and listen to the book read in Potawatomi so you can hear all the words that way. That was another neat addition with a lot of those books that’s pretty cool,” Neely said. “We put quite a few of them in Festival bags last year.”

He expects Going to Family Reunion Festival will be included in the 2024 Festival bags.

Neely looks forward to collaborating with other Tribal members on future projects.

“We love creativity, and we love trying new things out. So, we’re always interested in looking for partnerships with Tribal members. We’re always up to try new ways to get the language out there to the people and to get the culture out there in a meaningful way. A book like this is a nice way to be able to reach our children,” Neely said.

For more information, contact the CPN Language Department or visit the CPN Portal.
Learn more about Crumbo Halsey’s work on her website,