By Justin Neely, Director of the CPN Language Department
It is an exciting time to be Potawatomi. If you want to learn the language, we are continually enhancing and developing new tools and classes to make that possible.
Our goal of making the language accessible no matter where you live is truly coming to fruition. We have a number of self-paced, distance learning opportunities.
No longer does your location, outside activities or work schedule limit your ability to connect to your Tribe and learn Potawatomi.
Today is your moment. It only takes one dedicated individual to change the course of our language. Perhaps that one person is you.
Just look into the history of the Hebrew language. It stopped being a form of communication for more than a thousand years after becoming dormant. It existed in written documents and became known as a religious language used by the rabbinical class. Due to just a few dedicated individuals, it is now spoken by over a million people as their mother language.
We have many exciting ways to learn. Currently, our instructor Randy Schlachtun is in the midst of an eight-week beginner class Tuesday evenings at the CPN Cultural Heritage Center. Concurrently, an intermediate class takes place Thursday evenings.
One exciting feature of these classes is they are also shared live in the Facebook group “Potawatomi Language.” This group has more than 3,000 members. The class videos are archived there and can be watched any time. We also share handouts and resources there.
One new feature in our courses is a conversational piece. We try to have this exercise every Thursday for about an hour, so folks can listen to the language in an unscripted, conversational format.
Our classes are going well in Wanette Public Schools. Potawatomi language courses are also now available in Tecumseh Public Schools. If other school districts in Oklahoma are interested in adding Potawatomi, which counts as a foreign language credit for graduation, let us know.
Also available for those interested in learning Potawatomi are our self-paced language courses for beginners and intermediate speakers. These online courses have had almost 1,000 people participate.
There are two wildly popular courses available at memrise.com or on their smartphone app.
If you have young children, I encourage you to have them tune in to my YouTube channel with more than 120 videos for kids. Visit it at cpn.news/JN.
We have even more resources including cultural videos and a dictionary that can be downloaded at potawatomi.org/language.
Seize hold of one of these many opportunities to learn who you are as a Potawatomi. Our history, dances, blood, traditions, ceremonies, stories, dress and food make us Potawatomi. But the language is the thread that ties it all together.
Our ancestors told us to make decisions that considered the seven generations to come and honored the seven generations before us. What will you leave behind for your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews?
Ngom (today) is your moment. What will you tell the little ones one day if our language, which has been spoken for thousands of years and defines us as a unique sovereign people, disappears in our generation?