Some old Menominee People with pics of my Great Grandfather Sabtis Perrot, he was called Judge Perrot as he was an appointed judge by the Federal Government in those days…….

Ahau, enjoy……nin se Neaseno.

Old Speakers

Two of our speakers who have walked on and found their place among the stars. Old people used to say those old people who pass on go to the stars and listen in on what is going on here on Earth. This is Billy Daniels and his sister Mary who passed on some years before Billy did. She was instrumental in much of the language materials the linguist recorded, Laura Welcher.

Our elders are the stars of this language and cultural teachings. I am found among those who are the stars and my elders used to remind me I would achieve a special place someday, if I continued learning as I did. I have!

Nin se Neaseno.

Cultural Losses

In 1949, I noticed a group of Potawatomi people sitting eating their noon day lunch at one of the Pow Wows in a town called Pittsville, Wisconsin. I approached them and began speaking in Bodewadmimwen with them and to my amazement, only one person of a group of about 20 or so people, was the only one who understood me. All the rest of them, ranging in ages from a few children to adults, did not understand me fully. Only the one older guy who was perhaps in his 50’s answered me.

That amazed me because I thought everyone could speak Bodewadmimwen. I went home later that day and told my grampa and he said that a lot of people were losing their language already and much more of their cultural practices. That was surprising to a little guy like me as I could speak several languages at my young age. It is all I ever heard in our home; either Ojibwe, Bodewadmi, Odawa, Menomni, or Winnebago.

Today our language losses and cultural practices are at a stand still, with some learning a little of both, but nevertheless, still lacking in those areas. Our cultural practices suffer the most with language being learned by a few. It seems those that want to learn language, want only specific parts of it, they haven’t realized that language and culture are inseparable.

Very few know our old songs and those that do sing are on Pow Wow drums, not even realizing those are inter-tribal songs, not spiritual songs of specific ceremonies. Honor songs, social songs and the like came into being during the days when our people would have Big Gatherings for purposes of trade and fellowship which came to be referred to as Pow Wows.

There remain many who are trying to learn their languages today but not many who are learning our cultural ways with the songs for various ceremonies. Even naming ceremonies have taken on a certain “Heinz 57” type of approach. For those of you who don’t recognize the words Heinz 57, it was a type of sauce that had many different herbs and sauces in it. It is still made today. The knowledge of songs and cultural practices in vogue today among most of the tribes, is eclectic at best. Potpourri comes to mind!

I share this today as another of our heritage fluent speakers passed from the scene over the last few days. When we lose speakers, we lose vast libraries of wisdom, knowledge and understanding about our languages and cultural practices. It is a sad day when we lack speakers who can conduct a funeral in the right manner, from a traditional perspective of our own cultural ways, or who can sing the songs that should be sung at a “given” funeral, because there are some folks whom we should honor in very specific ways upon their death. That knowledge is lost! And the Songs that accompany those ceremonies are lost!

All is not lost though, if those who are learning these ways will apply themselves to fully seeking and learning those cultural practices with their language also. Kyenep kendasyek is what I hear our elders saying! That means Hurry and Learn!

Nin se Neaseno.

Passing of Elder speaker

Hau mno waben ginwa

Good morning relatives and friends:

I am going to attend the Wake and Funeral of my relative Violet Snowball who passed away of Covid virus yesterday. She and her husband Gary succumbed to the illness in the hospital where they were both on ventilators. It is a sad day for the Language Community indeed, as we lost another heritage fluent speaker, leaving only three of us this writer knows of. There are those Language Learners who are achieving some successes but they are not heritage fluent speakers, so her presence shall be missed by her community.

Please remember your Heritage Fluent Elders in prayer today and remember the family of Violet Snowball as well.

Iw enajmoyan ngom,

Nin se Neaseno.

My gggrandfather Nsowakwet, aka John Young. He was our spiritual head of the family and several other bands of Potawatomi. He refused to move to Kansas as he said the American government had no right to tell him where to live, so he settled in parts of Northern Wisconsin, until the group bought land near Wisconsin Rapids and Stevens Point, Wisconsin. It was near a small town called Arpin, Wisconsin and consisted of about 120 acres.

This is where I was born and raised until about 11-12 years of age. It was a wonderful place of the people, several different tribes taking up residence there. I still go back there to visit the land but it is owned by the Wood County park system now. There are graves sites that have been preserved along with several dance rings. Fascinating place for me and my family…….

Nin se Neaseno.

Passing of another speaker

These are my relatives, Gary and Violet Snowball who walked on yesterday from the Covid-19 virus. We shall miss them both and Violet was one of the last speakers of Potawatomi in her family. She was related to our family through her mother and grandmother, Lena White and Susan Spoon. Gary was related to me through his grandfather, Jim Pigeon. I knew Gary’s dad, Alfred and his mother, Carol Pigeon, who was a daughter of Jim and Rebecca Pigeon.

We shall honor their memories for some time to come. RIP to both of them.

Nin se Neaseno.

The birch trees.

wiigwaasaatig ~ paper birch
wiigwaas ~ white birch
wiigwaasi-mitig ~ white birch

wigwasatek ~ white birch tree
winsatek ~ yellow birch tree
wigwasmesh ~ birch paper

Wenabozho and the Birch Tree
Once there was a spirit-boy named Wenabozho who taught the Anishinabe how to live in the natural world.
One day he asked his grandmother what was the biggest fish in the lake. She replied that there was an enormous fish that lived by a rock ledge but it was very powerful and would harm Wenabozho. No one could kill the fish because no one could get down there where it lived.
Wenabozho thought about how to hunt this fish, so he got some wood to make a bow and arrows. Then he asked his grandmother if there were any birds whose feathers could be put on the arrows to make them effective. She told Wenabozho the only feathers strong enough come from a bird that lives in the sky, at the opening of the clouds. One would have to go there to get these feathers.
Wenabozho climbed to the highest cliff and discovered a nest of the Thunderbirds and saw their babies. Wenabozho turned into a rabbit so the Thunderbirds would bring him to their nest for their babies to play with. Wenabozho stayed in the nest for a long time; the babies were cruel to him and tossed him around. Eventually Thunderbirds went away to hunt for more food for their babies. Wenabozho turned back to a boy; he clubbed the baby Thunderbirds and pulled out their feathers Before their parents could return, Wenabozho jumped from the high nest with the bundle of feathers but he was knocked out, but he was not killed because he was a manido.
When they returned to their nest, the angered Thunderbirds flew after Wenabozho!! Thunder rolled from their beaks and lightning flashed from their eyes. Wenabozho ran for his life clutching his bundle of feathers, but soon grew so tired he began to fear he would be caught. As the Thunderbirds reached for him with their claws, Winabojo saw an old fallen birch that was hollow inside. Wenabozho crept into the hollow in the nick of time. The Thunderbirds ended their attack because they knew they could not reach Winabojo through the birch bark. Wenabozho was safe. After the Thunderbirds went away Wenabozho came out and proclaimed that the birch tree would forever protect and benefit the human race.
You can still see the short marks on the birch tree made by Wenabozho to commemorate the sharp claws of the Thunderbirds which almost killed him. The Thunderbird parents put “pictures” of their baby birds with out-stretched wings into the birch bark so the sacrifice of their children would always be remembered.
Wenabozho fixed his arrows and went home. With these arrows he was able to kill the great fish that lived under the rock ledge.
Wenabozho has blessed the birch tree for the good of the human race. And this is why lightning never strikes the birch tree, and why anything wrapped in the bark will not decay. Birchbark is useful for house coverings, canoes, containers, utensils, tinder and in many other ways. Anishinabe traditionally honor the tree by offering a gift, such as tobacco, when they use this tree.

(adapted from The Legend of Wenabozho and the Birch Tree, in How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine and Crafts, by Frances Densmore. 

Posted for Shawn Moore who shared this story.

A mystery to translate

Eje se o Aki,  Aki,  Aki…

Gi minangoygo o mnedo ode kiwen

Ni pi je o ga gimojket

Iw pi emyanendemygo jayek ezhechkewat ebaknegewjek shote

Epij mbektewat anet weye

Mine epij yaknogewat anet weye

Mine epij demagzewat  anet gego weye

Mine jayek emyashjegewat gode baknegewjek

Hau nwi kewabjegeyak jayek ode kiwen ga gtowat

Mine I wa zhetoyek ewzhegewyek ebmadziyek

Mine nwi kewabdemyak I wa je bmadziyek

I ye I ga wje yeshma’aygo jayek ginan