The Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Department of Education held the second annual Coming into the Circle event on March 23 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. High school Tribal members and their families traveled from across Oklahoma and from out of state to learn and experience Anishinaabé culture.

The Department of Education developed the program for enrolled high school students who have not had the opportunity to connect with their heritage. The program introduces students to the Tribe’s language, history and cultural practices through several activities held throughout the day.

Coming into the Circle began at the South Reunion Hall where participants were introduced to CPN services, played games and ate Indian tacos from CPN’s FireLake Fry Bread Taco. After lunch, the group headed to the Cultural Heritage Center where they toured the museum, learned a Tribal honor song, assembled a drum to take home and were taught the various styles of Tribal regalia. To end the day, the group returned to the CPN powwow grounds where they smudged before entering the dance arena, then learned how to dance along with Grand Entry etiquette.

Margaret Zientek presents various styles of Tribal regalia.

Jason McBride, his wife Rachel, and son Jack, who are descendants of the Bourassa family, drove from Kansas City, Missouri, to attend the event. This was their first time visiting CPN headquarters and meeting Tribal members from other families.

“We really appreciated the opportunity to meet other members, talk and learn about the Tribe,” Rachel said. “Also, how our children can become more connected and learn more about the Tribe as they get older. We really felt that this is a critical piece when we were talking, we need our children excited to learn and grow, and become an integral part of the community.”

Sampling Culture

Rachel Watson, Department of Education director, encourages other Tribal members to participate in Coming into the Circle.

“Our department was also very intentional about the programming of the day; there is so much Potawatomi culture, history and services it’s hard, but we manage to give students and their families the chance to get a sample of a little bit of everything,” they added. “We want every Tribal member to know that they are important to the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, whether or not they dance, drum, know our ceremonies or access our services.”

The department hopes to continue to expand the program further.

“In the future, we’d love to have more students attending. We have some plans to make registration easier and improve advertising of the event to increase numbers,” they said. “It is a very long, full day for our students, and there will be changes in our program as we continue to fine-tune the event and accommodate more attendees.”

Coming into the Circle 2024 participants gather outside the Bourbonnais cabin at the Cultural Heritage Center.

For more information about the Department of Education’s programs, visit

To learn more about Coming into the Circle, email