Some Hard Words

Ode Neshnabe

So you want to be Neshnabe, eh?

Being Neshnabe means you were born that way….you’ve always been that way, there was no alternative but that for you. This means you grew up speaking the accompanying language that goes with being Neshnabe, you also grew up with those mores, norms, standards, sanctions, and taboos. Everything you are, were and became means you learned it all through the target language of the group you were born into.

You learned nothing you currently know in English, it was not gleaned from University studies, nor from any other book learning, or in any other form of English inspired action. It wasn’t learned in English, but passed on to you from a heritage fluent speaker who taught you. This means you literally learned all that you know, all that you are, from your experiences as a traditional person growing up with the language, surrounded by like speaking elders and peers,

This sort of person can be referred to as Gete Neshnabe! The modern day world identifies him/her as a traditional person. Traditional because they are heritage fluent speakers, schooled and skilled in all of the lore and craft of their origins, adept and expert in the physical, material, and spiritual culture of their heritage speaking group they emanate from. One important fact, this kind of person was not trained in anything, they were taught from their youth up….

What of others who appear to be like them?  Those who mimic these people? Those who sound like them, but were not taught like them, but were trained by Gete Neshnabek who must specialize in training those who have not been taught, but have become separated from their archaic ways and the language so needed to find the way back to their origins?

These people could properly be referred to as quasi traditionals, or even pseudo traditionals then, borrowing upon the modern day terminology used by the dominant society they have become part of. Can they ever become like their Gete cousins one might ask? Can they somehow transpose themselves into what they want to be or study so hard to be?

The indisputable answer is NO!

The best they can do is follow the teachings of those who are Gete Neshnabek, become trained in the lore, the craft, the sacred ways, learn their heritage language, and begin the process of learning so their offspring can be taught, instead of having to be trained like them. One teaches a child, one trains a monkey, a dog, or some such other creature, but not a human being. We, who are Gete Neshnabek were taught, not trained!

I am using English to inform those who will read and listen and take appropriate action, but for those who read and do not listen and do not take any action, I can do nothing….also, there becomes no hope for their offspring, no hope for the generations who come after them. They must look to the future so those who come after them have a chance to survive as Gete Neshnabek.

Our old people used to tell us we had to render decisions with Seven Generations in mind, so there could be a future for those who would come after us. This kind of thinking has nothing to do with Self, or hedonistic pleasures. We must remove Self from the pedestal and return to that Seven Generational thinking our forefathers utilized in their decision making. Only then can our offspring/children have a chance to become Gete Neshnabek once again, and then there shall be those who are taught the sacred ways of the Gete Neshnabek again.

Learn your Language!

Live your life for the future generations so that anything you become trained in today can benefit them. Live like a Gete Neshnabe even if folks refer to you as a quasi neshnabe, but do not be a pseudo neshnabe or live your life like one, especially in front of your children. Embrace the teachings and learn your heritage language and become trained in them, so you have something to teach your offspring.

Author: neaseno

I was born on Powers Bluff in Wood County, Wisconsin, into a traditional community of Neshnabek. I was raised speaking only native languages, and learned to speak English upon entering school at the age of 6. As of this writing, I am one of 5 remaining Heritage Fluent Speakers of Potawatomi.

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