Something highly appropriate for today….

The Seven Grandfather Teachings




















According to the aadizookaan Atsokan (traditional story), the teachings were given to the Anishinaabeg early in their history. Seven Grandfathers asked their messenger to take a survey of the human condition. At that time the human condition was not very good. Eventually in his quest, the messenger came across a child. After receiving approval from the Seven Grandfathers, tutored the child in the “Good way of Life”. Before departing from the Seven Grandfathers, each of the Grandfathers instructed the child with a principle.  

  • Bwakawen—Wisdom: To cherish knowledge is to know Wisdom. Wisdom is given by the Creator to be used for the good of the people. In the Anishinaabe language, this word expresses not only “wisdom,” but also means “prudence,” or “intelligence.” In some communities, Gkendasewen is used; in addition to “wisdom,” this word can also mean “intelligence” or “knowledge.”
  • Zagidwen—Love: To know Love is to know peace. Love must be unconditional. When people are weak they need love the most. In the Anishinaabe language, this word with the reciprocal theme /idi/ indicates that this form of love is mutual. In some communities, Gzhawenidiwen is used, which in most context means “jealousy” but in this context is translated as either “love” or “zeal”. Again, the reciprocal theme /idi/ indicates that this form of love is mutual.
  • Mnadendemowen—Respect: To honor all creation is to have Respect. All of creation should be treated with respect. You must give respect if you wish to be respected. Some communities instead use Ewetodendemidiwen or Kejitwaweninidiwen.
  • Akwadewen—Bravery: Bravery is to face the foe with integrity. In the Anishinaabe language, this word literally means “state of having a fearless heart.” To do what is right even when the consequences are unpleasant. Some communities instead use either Zongadikiwen (“state of having a strong casing”) or Zongide’ewen (“state of having a strong heart”).
  • Gwekwadzewen—Honesty: Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave. Always be honest in word and action. Be honest first with yourself, and you will more easily be able to be honest with others. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean “righteousness.”
  • Dbesendamowen—Humility: Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of Creation. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean “compassion.” You are equal to others, but you are not better. Some communities instead express this with Bekadiziwen, which in addition to “humility” can also be translated as “calmness,” “meekness,” “gentility” or “patience.”
  • Debwewin—Truth: Truth is to know all of these things. Speak the truth. Do not deceive yourself or others.

Aujesokanek, adesokanek, audesokanek

The Muses: The Powers regarded as inspiring a thinker, artist, poet, and in this case, many of the old time Seers, Prophets, Holy Men, and other such people that officiated the various ceremonies of the Neshnabek.

Node Bodewadmi Kedwenen

Node Bodéwadmi Kedwenen naké Zheshmowen.

Ndéwkwé                              I have a head ache

Ndep                                      my head

Gdep                                     your head

Wdep                                    his/her head

Nshtegwan                            my head

Gshtegwan                           your head

Wshtegwan                          his/her head

Ngi gij ndebé                        I have a sore head

Beshbigwdebét                    the bald one

Ngigij jané                           I have a sore nose

Nmeskwiwjané                    I have a bloody nose

Ngi gijdamken                     I have a sore jaw

Ngi gijwibet                         I have a sore tooth

Ngi gijwibtan                       I have sore teeth

Gi gij damken ne                 Do you have a sore jaw?

Gi gij gdebé ne                      Do you have a sore head?

Gi gij gwibtan ne                 Are your teeth sore?

Ngi we’podago                     I got hit/I was hit

Ngi gij den magen               I have a sore shoulder

Wéte ggigij                           Boy, you are a cry baby!

Gi gij                                     Cry baby/sensitive

Ngi gij pégwen                     I have a sore back

Gi gij gpégwen ne               Do you have a sore back?

Gi nodagé ne                        Did you hear about it?

                                               Did you hear it?

                                               Did you hear the news?

Gi wabdan ne ode               Did you see this?

Ngi wab dan I                      I saw that

Ngegipshe                             I am deaf

Ggépsha ne                          Are you deaf?

Gip shéwak                          He/she is deaf

                                               They are deaf

Ngegiyébshe                         I am deaf  (ks)

Giye’pshéwak                      He/she is deaf  (ks)

Ni pi je nigtogenen              Where are your ears?

Baknen nigtogenen             Open your ears

Ndakwes nwibet                 I have a tooth ache/my tooth is sick!

Ngi gij nwibet                      I have a sore tooth

Ngi bok janéshen                I broke my nose

Ngi bok ndamken               I broke my jaw

Ngi bok kanéshen               I broke my leg/I broke my bone.

Ngi ja nagnama                   I broke his/her nose

Ngi bok ja négnamek o      He/she broke my nose

Gi bok gwe shen                  He/she broke his/her neck

Ngi bok gwébena                I broke his/her neck

Gi bok bégeshen                  He/she broke his/her rib

Ngi knéshkak                       I was made senseless

Ngi kche zhoniyam             I had a lot of money

Nkche zhoniyam                 I had a lot of money

Ngi kche zhonyam ké         I made a lot of money

                                              I am going to make a lot of money

Mje’sh ézhoniyam               I have a lot of money

Gi gedewék                          They are having a meeting/gathering

Mawjeshnok                        They are having a gathering

Mawjeshnowat                   They are having a gathering

                                               Where they gather

Wezhbyégét                         Secretary

                                               A recorder/one who keeps records

Gigdownene                         Representative

Iw gana kwe ke’wat            That is what they decided

Sho nadak kweke’wat        They are making bad decisions

Sho nadak wnewe’k           They are making bad decisions

Sho nadak wnege’k            the same could be said

Ngigibasmegomen              We are being told something crazy

Kye’basmegomen               the same another way

Gibastawgwezik                  They are talking crazy

Gibastagzewek                    the same another way

Nge’gibade’ndem               I’m thinking foolishly

Nenagdewe’ndem               I’m thinking deeply

Neshnade’ndem                  I’m confused

Gneshnade’ndem ne           Are you confused?

Ngimje’nwa                         I challenged him/her

Ngimje’nwak                       I challenged them

Ngimje’nak                          He/she challenged me

Shkadze o                             He/she is mad/angry

Shkadzewe’k                       They’re mad/angry

Neshkades                            I am mad/angry

Gneshkades ne                    Are you mad/angry?

Gneshkades                         You are mad/angry

Wegwni je ngom wech kedaziyen     What are you mad about today?

Gimigadwik                         They were fighting

Migadwik                             They are fighting

Gwimigadwik                      They are going to fight

Neshke’nmek o                   That person hates me

Zhige’nmek o                      that person hates me/another one

Neshke’nma o                      I hate that person

Nzhige’nma o                      I hate that person

Shke’ndewe’k gi                 They hate each other

Zhige’ndewek gi                 They hate each other

We’benedwe’k                    They are separated

Mjibmadzet                         bad person

Myanbmadzet                     bad person/another one

Mnobmadzet                       good person

Wenzebmadzet                    a good person

Mnozhewe’bze                    He/she is kind/healthy/good

Giminwe’wes                       You were useful

Ndomgwe’shgajek              He/she is bothering me or

                                               giving me a hard time

Ndonshkwe’ek                    He/she is bothering me

                                               keeping from doing something

                                               being pesty

Bonikoshen                          Leave me alone

Ngi bonikak                         He/she left me alone

                                               He/she didn’t bother me

Ngi kajkede’ek                    He/she was teasing me

Ngi bap o                              I laughed at that person

Ngi bap a                              I laughed at him/her

Gi bapago                            They laughed at me

                                               I got laughed at/I was laughed at

Gi kche bapagok                 They really laughed at me

Ni je we’ch bapyen             Why are you laughing?

Daba bapagezhewiye          They can laugh if they want to

                                               Implies at me over something believed

Gi kche bapagazwat           They really laughed hard

Yayajmo                               he/she talks

Yayajmowat                        they are talking

E’gi yajmot                          what he/she talked about

Yayajem                               talk

Yayajmowen                       all talk

Nda yayajem                       I should talk

Gdeyayajem                        You will talk?

Ndeyayajem                         I will talk?

Nenwesh                               milk weed

Nenweshek                           milk weeds

Kwe’tansena                        I think so/of a surety

                                               I should think so

Ni ge’b zhe                           of course!

                                               I should say!

E’yanshitmet                       became discouraged

E’me’nsezet                         became embarrassed

Mamkazmet                        he/she surprised me/women’s form

Gi mamkade’nma               I was surprised at him/her

Watiya                                  same thing/men’s form

Tiya                                       short form of surprise or exclamation

Najdot                                   He/she asked

E’gi dodaske’t                     ask in a beseeching manner

                                               usually in prayer

Najdo                                    ask

Naj do wat                           They asked

Naj do                                    asked for

Naj do men                          we will ask

Nda naj do men                   we should ask

Nwi naj do wa                     I will ask him/her

Gwi naj do wa ne                Are you going to ask him/her?

Kwe’tan se ninajdo             I will surely ask him/her

Ngi najdowa                        I asked him/her

Ngi me’nsezwa                    I embarrassed him/her

Nwi me’nsezwa ago            I will embarrass him/her

Mno wab menag wze          He/she looks fine/is looking fine

Win do kewe’zi yem ne      Are you looking for an old man?

Gde ton ne dabyan             Do you have a car?

Gde sa ne neg do sha          Do you have a horse?

Gde sa ne sema                    Do you have some tobacco?

Jo zhe nde sa si                    I don’t have any!

Gda bin de ge’                     You should come in/enter.

Dabindege’k shode eda yak    Welcome, enter our place.

Dabindege’k ode e’shedawad msenegen   Welcome to our home                                                                          page.

Gda mi jen                           You should eat/you ought to eat.

Nda mi jen                           I should eat.

 Bodewadmi Gigdowen

Negekshkan                                             ear wax

Wnegekshkan                                         his/her ear wax

Wne gekshkanwa                                   their ear wax

Negagset                                                   sole of either shoe or foot

also the iron covering on wagon wheels or sleighs

Negagsaten                                              plural

Negagsetwan                                           their soles

Doden                                                       heel

Ndoden                                                     my heel or could mean; ask for something

Gdoden                                                     your heel

Bmekwe                                                    someone’s tracks

Ngi na gjege                                             I trailed something/not specific

Nginagna                                                  I trailed him/her or an animal/specific

Wdeonagnan                                           he is going to trail him

animate (deer?) present tense

Wgi onagnan                                           he trailed him—past tense

Nabtoan                                                    I trail him                                      

Ndegwdekto                                             I told him/her

Zet                                                              foot

Zetesen                                                      toes or little feet

Zeten                                                         feet

Zetes                                                          little foot/small foot

Negagset                                                   sole

Sheton                                                       make

Gipdon                                                      chapped lips

Gipnoye                                                    chapped cheek (s)

Noye                                                          cheek (s)

Kibdon                                                      mute (unable to speak)

Gegibtok                                                   one who is mute

Mine kwe gego                                        if it isn’t one thing it’s another

Ginkwetak ne                                          did he/she measure you?

also; did he/she argue with you?

Ngi nkwe twa                                          I answered him/her

                                                                    or; I argued with him/her

Ngi nkwe twak                                        I answered them or I argued with them

Ngi batama                                              I reported them/on them

We ni je ga mej wa bne gyen               who woke you up?

                                                                    who shook you awake?

Ngi mje doki she na                               I just woke up

without the alarm clock or being awakened

Ne sha shna mba bi mskwe ge             h/s is about to spin around

Mej we ben o ksese i she gega ewi wisniy go                 go get your brother we are going to eat soon

Mej we ben o ksese i she mami ewi wi sney go              ditto

Gi bse gwi gben ma o                   I helped raise h/h up

Kwe tan na pa gi wse dek           they surely went about hunting

Nin nde ben ma o                          I own h/h

Nin nde ben dan i                         I own that/it

Nin ma nde ben ma o                   I am the one who owns h/h

Nin ma i nde be ndan                  I am the one who owns that/it

Nin se ngi ket                                 I said it/I said so

Nin ma nde ket                              I am the one who said it

Bye don i gde nen                         Bring it I told you

Bye don i gde nen ma                  I am the one who told you tobring it

Ke wi dmowen                               I shall tell you

Nin se nde ket                                I say so

Nin ma nde ket                              I am the one saying this

Nin se gwi dmon                           I am telling you

Nin ma gwi dmon                         I am the one telling you

Bo niken i gdenen                         I told you to leave that alone!                       

Bo niken i gde nen ma                 I told you all to leave thatalone!

Jo wi nin nde bwet sin i               not me, I don’t believe it

Jo ma nin nde bwe tsin i             no, myself, I don’t believe it

Gego gi kshe dso ken                   don’t cut yourself

Gego ke gshe des                           don’t, you’ll cut yourself (axe)

Ngi pje kwne des                           I cut myself accidently carving

Ngi pje gna ma                              I hit him accidently

Ngi pje gna ndes                           I hit myself accidently

Ngi pje gwap an                            I ladled it up accidently

Ngi pje ngwe                                  I saw him but was mistaken

Ngi zam we bnan                          I spun it too far or

                                                          I pushed it too far

Ndo zam shke ne                           I am too full

Zam aj mo                                      he/she is saying too much

                                                          not truthful

Zam bye                                          he’s too drunk

Some body parts:

Tog                                                   ear

Togen                                              ears

Winsesen                                         hair

Shki zhek                                        eye

Shki zhgon                                     eyes

Jash                                                  nose

Ojash                                               another nose

Don                                                  mouth/lips

Damken                                           chin

Shkiw en                                          cover it up

Ngi shkiw an                                  I covered it up

Ma ji gda zo                                   he’s leaving mad/angry

                                                          he’s mad so he’s leaving

Gi yayentagwze o gigabe

Yayenagwze o kwe

Yayentagwzik anet gi nenwik emnekwewat dbekok

Gi mnowabmenagwze o gigyagos

Neko gi yayentagewat iw pi ebgeshet o gizes

Mine gi yayajmowat jayek ni atsokenen gi kekyajek

Iw je pi eyaptepok ga wje atsokanewat gi kekyajek

Cho wika ngom ekendemwat ni atsokanen gode bmadsejek

Neko iw pi pene ga wje zhechkewat ni atsokanen

Yesterday’s Thoughts


Birch bark scrolls

speak from the distant past

of grander times,

when things were gentle,

speaking of strawberry blossoms

and pathways strewn with

pleasant buffalo-memories,

berry pickers and

female hide-scrapers,

all speaking of stories/secrets

that still work.

Children laughing, running, and playing

along staggering streams of

sun-splashed waters,

cutting their way through

the Great Mother of us all.

Parents and The old Ones

watching and listening with rapt

wonderment their rapt attention on

worn parchment faces

as though they are re-living

some ancient vision only they can see.

The People are alive and well

everything seems to say,

with but a tinge of ‘sadness

at the passing of buffalo summers,

hide-scraping, berry-picking,

hide-tanning, and the like

which they all knew

should come to light

once again,

on moon-lit nights

along similar streams

and familiar ancient paths

when it is safe to love and live again.

Memories of sweet medicine thoughts,

soft things, and gentle streams

that are constantly cutting their way

through earth-thoughts and other barriers

of man-made prisons, constantly speak of hope

and the strengths of willows and sweetgrass.

The promises held forth of pipe smoke, sweetgrass-filled dreams, speak of cherry-blossomed thinking

along with gentle summer rains

that wash away the dirt of yesterday,

leaving only memories of sweet tomorrows

and by-gone tender shoots of mercies.

Can it be?

Pipe Stem Thoughts

Pipe Stems were once clean,

Pipe Bowls once faithful,

gone are the days

of Unity,

when harmony was thought

to be the greatest attribute

of man.

Leaving only confusion,

causing Little Ones sorrow,

and Old Ones

pain and grief.

Humility, is no longer sought

and asked for,

only pride

which keeps all

further apart,

and in the end

ushering in the final destiny

of all who embrace such dis-ease.

Something grips my heart


as I sit alone reminiscing  

of all that was,

wondering what shall be,

and staring into the future of unclean bones.

The tunnel of faith

is sometimes fearful

to behold,

as scenes of future events

leap into being.

Do we want this gift?

Can we reject it now,

after all these years?

I think I realize now

what has gripped my soul,

for the future is cold

and lifeless,

without human hands, minds and spirits

to give it form.

That is fearful,

wondering if there shall be human beings there.

The Four Directions prayer Song

To the West,

I see Grandfather sitting

and watching us as we pray.

Pray to Him.

Pray to Him.

For I see Grandfather sitting

and watching us as we pray.

To the North,

I see-Grandfather sitting

And watching us as we pray.

Pray to Him.

Pray to Him.

For I see Grandfather sitting

and watching us as we pray.

To the East,

I see Grandfather sitting

and watching us as we pray.

Pray to Him.

Pray to Him.

For I see Grandfather sitting

and watching us as we pray.

To the South,

I see Grandfather sitting

and watching us as we pray.

Pray to him.

Pray to Him.

For I see Grandfather sitting

and watching us as we pray.

Above us,

Beneath us,

Deep within my heart,





Weather changes; Tornadoes,




Hot, (Global warming trends)

Rain, (Spot rain)

Snow, (Spot snow fall)

Racial conflicts,


Diseases; E-bola, Aids, Flus, Tuberculosis, Cancer, Etc.

Government Integrity,

Human Integrity,

Lack of/loss of Love,

Lack of/loss of Respect,

All of these and more are currently being written about by Native American Writers.

By Neaseno

Some examples of the little words

Bon, Bwa, Bye, Pa

Byé as a preverb…

Hau, byébidgén éwisneyen.  Oh, come in and eat.

Wnago gi byéwisnet o shkenwé.  Yesterday that young man came and ate.

Nemé’wgemgok égi byé ngemowat gi négmojek.  The singers came and sang at the church.

Ébyé mokit o gises.  The sun is coming up.

Hau byéjibteben émbwach’ewéshen.  Oh, come sit down and visit with me.

Égi byé jibtebet o kwé égi mbwach’ewéshet wnago.  That woman came and sat and visited me yesterday.

Byénkwéshkew o nnikan Yabwambish.  Come and meet my friend, Luke Warmwater.

Byédon I mbop dopwenek.  Bring the soup to the table.

Byéna o gdekwéyom gishpen ébyayen.  Bring your wife if you come. 

Ébyé bgembozet o nmeshomes.  My grandfather is arriving by vehicle. 

Pa – To go about…

Épandewébnayan ndo shkemot.  I’m searching about for my purse.

Weswabek nwi pabmades kiwédnon.  I will travel north day after tomorrow.

Odanek nwi zhyamen éwi pa bmoséygo ngoji.  We will go to town to walk around somewhere.

Dawéwgemgwén éwi pa zgabyéngéyak ode gizhnawkwék.  We will drive around to the stores this afternoon. 

Zibik épa bmadgéwat gi gigabyék. Those boys are swimming around in the river. 

Mbishkik épa giwséyan ngom.  I will go about hunting at the marsh. 

Shpemek épa bmiséwat gi kejkanéshiyek.  The chickadees are flying about in the air.

Shpemsegok épa bmashiwat gi gnoyek.  The eagles are soaring about somewhere above.

Mtegwakik épa zhyayak éwi pandewébneyak I mshkekiwen.  We will go about in the forest searching around for medicine.

Jigbyék épazhyayan égdemojgéyan.  I will go around on the shore fishing. 

O gigyago épa bmenashkot o gigabé – That girl is chasing that boy about.

Bon – stop an action

Nwi madmo ébon yaknogéyen.  I will pray that you will stop being sick.

Gégo bon madmoken.  Don’t stop praying.

Ndépseni ma shna ébon wisneyan.  I’m full so I will stop eating.

Gégpi ébon gméyamget.  It has finally stopped raining.

Gaga she wi kchegmowen ébonzhitayak ézagjeséyak.  It will soon rain hard so we will stop getting ready to go outside.

Nwi madmo éwi mishkwesyan ébon wdeméyan.  I will pray for the strength to stop smoking.

Bégesh na ébon wdeméyan.  I wish I could stop smoking.

Neshkamak gi penojék ébon nodagzewat.  Get after those kids to stop making noise.

Gi bonimget wnago.  It snowed yesterday.  (Don’t confuse the preverb “bon” with “snowing!”)

Bwa – Prevent an action.  Can’t, Won’t, Shouldn’t.

Wigéyzen ébwa jagzeyen.  Be careful so you don’t get burned.

Ngi bokkadéshen ébwa byé nimediyan.  I broke my leg so I can’t come dance.

Dkobjegén o nemosh ébwa wébiwét o.  Tie up that dog so he doesn’t run away.

Cho she zhonya ndetosin ma shna ébwa tadiyan.  I don’t have any money so I can’t gamble.

Épich ngashknabagwé ébwa kigdoyan.  I’m so thirsty I can’t talk.

Cho she bapkoyan ndetosin ébwa wzhetoyan gégo.  I don’t have any material so I can’t make anything.

Ngi ngeto i déwé’genatek ébwa déwé’géyan pkonyak.  I lost my drumstick so I can’t drum tonight.

Bégishek ngi mba ébwa wzhitayan wa je zhechkéyak pkonyak.  I slept all day so I didn’t get ready for what we are going to do tonight.

Éshkadzet o nene ébwa nabanjigazot éniganit gi bémadsejek.  That man is angry because he wasn’t chosen to lead the people.

Gishokwenéyen ébwa bigéjyen.  Dress in warm clothes so you don’t get cold.

Cho she msén ndetosimen ébwa wjandaygo.  We don’t have any wood so we can’t cook. 

Mix it up…

Gi gimo pa bamadgéwat gi gigoyek ébwa gwdemogéyan weye.  Those fish were sneakily swimming about so I didn’t catch any of them. 

Égi byé kewabnojét o wéshgetkwé dbekok égi pa odankéyan.  The young woman came and babysat last night so I could go about town.

Abdek ébon wdeméyék ébwa pené’éyék.  It is necessary for you all to quit smoking to keep from getting a disease (cancer, emphysema, etc. pene’ewen is a serious illness). 

A simple basic lesson

Most used prefixes

The following are the most used prefixes in the language as they deal with various types of tenses.  Also a little explanation on animate and inanimate prefixes.  The i for inanimate objects is singular and stands for it, that, the, depending on the sentence.  The ni is plural and stands for these, those, them, the.  So we have:

Inanimate i singular, and inanimate ni for plural objects.  Also remember that inanimate plurals end in the letter N.

Animate o for singular and gi for plural.  Remember that animate plurals end in the letter K.

WA- Future tense.  GA- Past tense.  E- Present tense.

NGI-I- Past tense.  NWI-I- Future tense.  NDE- Present tense.  NDA- I could, can, should.

WI- h/s Future tense.  WGI- Past tense.

GWI- Future tense.  GGI- Past tense.  GDE- Present tense.  GDA- You could, can, should.

NINAN – us, exclusive.

Ninan nwi shyamen.

Ninan ngi shyamen

Ninan nde shyamen

Ninan nda shyamen

GINWA – you guys.

Ginwa gwi shyam.

Ginwa ggi shyam

Ginwa gde shyam

Ginwa gda shyam

WINWA – They are.

Winwa wi shyek

Winwa gi shyek

Winwa da shyek

GINAN – us, inclusive

Ginan gwi shyamen.

Ginan ggi shyamen

Ginan gde shyamen

Ginan gda shyamen

The following prefixes and suffixes are used to denote past tense, present tense, future tense, and plurals of the subject.  The prefixes and suffixes are BOLD so that you can see a pattern in the language usage.

NI PI JE – Where (We will use “where” to make simple sentences.)

E – Present tense  WA – Future tense  GA – Past tense

  1. Ni pi je E shya yen?  Where are you going?
  2. NI pi je E shya yek?  Where are you guys going?
  3. Ni pi je wa shya yen?  Where are you going?
  4. Ni pi je wa shya yek?  Where are you guys going?
  5. Ni pi je ga shya yen?  Where did you go?
  6. NI pi je ga shya yek?  Where did you guys go?

NI JE PI – When (We will now use “when” to make some sentences)


  1. Ni je pi wa shya yen?  When are you going there?
  2. Ni je pi wa shya yek?  When are you guys going there?
  3. Ni je pi ga shya yen?  When did you go there?
  4. Ni je pi ga shya yek?  When did you guys go there?
  5. Ni je pi da shya yen?  When could you go?
  6. Ni je pi da shya yek?  When could you guys go?


  1. Wabek nwi shya.  I am going there tomorrow.
  2. Wabek nwi shya men.  We are going there tomorrow.
  3. Wabek wi shye wak.  He is going tomorrow.
  4. Wabek wi shyek.  They are going tomorrow.


  1. Wnago ngi shya.  I went yesterday.
  2. Wnago ngi shya men.  We went yesterday.
  3. Wnago gi shye wak.  S/he went yesterday.
  4. Wnago gi shyek.  They went yesterday.


  1. Ngom nwi shya.  I am going there today.
  2. Ngom nwi shya men.  We are going there today.
  3. Ngom shye wak.  S/he is going there today.
  4. Ngom wi shyek.  They are going there today.

Preverbs, prenouns and affixes

  Bodewadmimwen prefixes and suffixes

Reason for needing this

  • In order to understand new words you  need to understand how the roots are put together and the attachment of affixes; prefixes and suffixes. With this understanding you can start to create new words and really expand what you want to say.


  • Prefixes on nouns work pretty much the same as with verbs in fact many of the prefixes we use with verbs we also use with nouns. Often these are just shortened forms of the verb combined with a noun.

Mish- hairy and Wag-crooked/bent

  • Mishdon – hairy mouth (moustache)
  • Mishkade – hairy leg.
  • Mish bokma – pear (hairy plum)
  • Wagikoman – crooked knife
  • Wagkade – he/she is bowlegged
  • Waga’egan – lodge, curved or bent pole lodge.

Kche- large, Bgoj-wild

  • Kche dopwen – large table.
  • Kche dabyan – large car.
  • Also used with verbs
  • Ngi-kche mikchewi – I really worked.
  • Bgoj bsheke – buffalo.
  • Bgoj penoje – wild child.
  • Bgoj nene – wild man.
  • Bkoj watowen – wild fun or time.
  • Bkojwedabyan – runaway car or vehicle.

Nap- hanging down, Naw- center

  • Napkwan – Sailboat.
  • Napkewagen – necklace.
  • Naw gises – center of the sun.
  • Nanaw – directly in the center.
  • Nawkwek – high noon….dead center day!
  • Nawkwe wisnewen – lunch.
  • Napwadek – dream of s.t.
  • Napwanat – dream of s.o.

Wab- White, Zaw- yellow, mkede- black

  • Wabmimi – White Dove.
  • Wapse – swan (white skin)
  • Wab nemosh – white dog.
  • Zaw shonya – gold (yellow money)
  • Zaw jigwe – yellow thunder.
  • Zaw gon – yellow snow.
  • Mkede ankwet – black cloud.
  • Mkede myew – black road.


  • If you understand the endings of verbs you can also start to create different words.

Wgemek- building or structure or kan if the verb ends in ke.

  • Tadiwgemek – casino.
  • Yaknogewgemek – hospital.
  • Shonyawgemek – bank.
  • Wisnegemek – restaurant.
  • Zisbaktokan – sugar camp.
  • Gigokan – fishing place.
  • Mnedoegan – medicine lodge.
  • Kendaswegan – learning place.

Jéwen- having to do with water

  • Mokjewen – bubbling springs ( mok-emerging).
  • Gwekjewen – river turned direction.
  • Senajewen – rapids ( water hitting rocks).
  • Bmejewen – river flowing by.
  • Shejewen – fast moving water.
  • Mdwejewen – sound of water.
  • Nisjewen – downward flowing water.
  • Shiwejgamiwen – fast moving large body of water.
  • Kwedjimajewen – canoe on top of the water.

Kazo- acting or pretending

  • Chikazo – he/she is playing.
  • Mbokazo – he/ she is playing dead.
  • Mikchewikazo – he/she is pretending to work.
  • Wawijgekazo – he/she is pretending to read or;
  • Gedasokazo – he/she is pretending to read.
  • Giwshkwekazo – h/s pretending to be dizzy.
  • Mnedokazo – acting the part of a spirit.
  • Kenomakazo – acting like an instructor.

Ze or se at the end of verb is a state of being of something animate

  • Bmadze– he/she is alive
  • Nshkadze– he/she is mad
  • Kyebadze– he/she is misbehaved/ foolish
  • Tkoze– he/she is short
  • Zegze– he/she is scared

Kiwadze– he/she is sad.

Bi having to do with a liquid

  • Abtobi – half full of a liquid or half drunk.
  • Mnobi – be a little buzzed on alcohol.
  • Moshknebi – be full of a liquid.
  • Zambi – he/she drank too much liquid.
  • Gishkwebi – dizzy from drinking.
  • Zhowbi – be slightly drunk.
  • Mbiwe – h/s is all wet.
  • Mbiwdonwe – h/h mouth is wet.

se- walk final

  • Bmose – he/she walks by.
  • Agmose – he/she walks in snow shoes.
  • Nemse – he/she walks away.
  • Giwtawse – he/she walks around in a circle. (Perhaps this is root of giwshkwebye)
  • Nokse – he/she walks softly/ quietly.
  • Tkemse – h/s walks across/crosses over.

We or wi- he/she is from yawe.
Ate- having to do with light or heat and the sun

  • Penojewe – he/she is a child.
  • Keweziwe – he/she is an old man.
  • Mko we – he/she is a bear
  • Zhabate – light breaking through.
  • Gshate – hot.
  • Atebdon – turning it off, putting it out.
  • Gshate – it is hot ( in reference to weather)
  • Gzhede – it is hot (something else)
  • Zamate – It is too hot.

Shen- lying or falling animate

  • Pekshen– he/she falls
  • Mnoshen– he/she is lying comfortably.
  • Gwekshen– he/she turns over while lying.
  • Kikijnekeshen- he/she falls and hurts his arm.
  • Apjeshen- he/she falls really hard.
  • Ngikchemdweshen- I fell and it made a loud sound.
  • Zagjeshen – lying outdoors.

Pto- to run

  • Bmepto– run by.
  • Gwekpto- turn and run.
  • Nempto- run off.
  • Zagjepto- run outside.
  • Bidgepto- run inside.
  • Zegjepto – ran out scared.
  • Shiwbeto – ran fast.
  • Bgembeto – arrived by running.

Ke- make or do something with something

  • Minke – pick blueberries.
  • Dabyan ke – work on your car.
  • Gokpena ke – make baskets.
  • Mshkekike – make medicine.
  • Msenegen ke – make a book.
  • Odanke – go to town.
  • Msenatseke – go to the movies.
  • Zisbaktoke – to make maple sugar.

Wen- turns a verb into a noun or gen.

  • Debwe- he/she tells the truth
  • Debwewen– truth
  • Kedo– he/she says
  • Kedwen– a saying or phrase
  • Taso– to place something on a shelf
  • Taswen– cupboard
  • Jiptebe– he/she sits
  • Jiptebwen– chair or thing to sit on.

Making real large compound words

  • Wijeptoma– he/she is running around with someone.
  • Wijewsema– walk with someone.
  • Bokkadeshen– he/she fell from broke their leg.
  • Pjeboknekeshen– I accidentally fell and broke my arm.
  • Mnedowagakegan – medicine bent/curved lodge.
  • Widoktadmawjeshgemek – meeting place.
  • Nweshmoshengemek – lying down place.
  • Mnowabmenagwzet– h/s is good to look at.
  • Ewikwechkkentemak – what we come to understand about s.t.
  • Naktowentamowen -what is known from studying it.
  • Edbesendowen – having humility.
  • Epijedbesendojege – acting with extreme humility.
  • Kejitwawenindowen – I have respect unto s.t. or s.o.
  • Bebapmeptojegewat -they were running all about.
  • Geteepijmnowabmenagwzet – h/s sure is looking real good.
  • Epijsnegewyajmownen – incomprehensible sayings or words
  • Getesnegewkedwenen – hard to understand words

Starting to Learn Potawatomi

What does one need to start learning this language: Bodewadmimwen?

How does one start?

Where does one begin?

I have often advised folks that one doesn’t learn this language properly unless one hears it all of the time. One does not effectively learn to speak any language by reading or writing it alone, yet many people do just that. There are some folks that start learning Bodewadmimwen or Neshnabemwen by reading it, and then they will ask you how to spell something in the language. In fact, they begin to dwell on the correct way to spell certain words and will even argue about spelling it with others.

When I was teaching this language in a Charter School at Wilson, Michigan for the Hannahville Potawatomi, I usually did not allow my students to see anything written, nor did I allow them to read any Potawatomi materials until much later. I would generally have them sit and listen to the language, rather than read it. After about 3-4 weeks of just listening to the language, they would have had their listening capabilities sharpened by reason of use, through our speaking the language to them during class time.

Then, it became time to introduce them to reading the language in semi-immersion sessions right in the classroom. We would often write short phrases on the black boards, or on dry erase boards situated in the classrooms. We would never teach them one word at a time, as that is not the way one learns to speak any language effectively. We taught them in simple phrases, utilizing words they had already learned from reading the Potawatomi materials.

There are basics one must learn to recognize when starting to speak a new language. Let me demonstrate by giving some examples.

We shall begin with Emphatic Pronouns:

Nin    meaning      I, me mine or my.

Gin    meaning      you, your or yours.

Win   meaning      he/she, him/her, it.

Ninan meaning     we but not you.

Ginan meaning     we plus you.

Ginwa meaning     all of you, plural.

Winwa meaning    they, them.

Next are Tense Markers.


De               very present tense marker

Ge               immediate present tense marker

Wi               future tense marker

Gi               past tense marker

Da               can, could, should, or would tense marker


Wa              future tense marker supplying info, used in queries

Ga               past tense used in questions and supplying info

Ewi             immediate future tense; future factive

Egi              past factive; an action that occurred in the past

E                 factive, demonstrating several aspects of other tense markers

Next are Demonstrative pronouns.

Demonstratives are always used from the Speaker’s point of view, POV

The proximity of the object to speaker determines which demonstrative pronoun to use. The demonstratives are like, “this, that, these, and those” in English.

They fall into categories of animate, things that are alive or living, and inanimate, things that are not alive, or contain no life of their own. Things that are inanimate, or could be animate or inanimate, or possess a certain degree of animacy, we use the ode, i, e’i form of demonstratives.


Ode   this             i         that             e’i      that over there

Ode             this             o        that             ago    that over there

Gode           these           gi       those           e’gi    those over there


Ode nene               i nene                    e’i nene

This man              that man               that man over there

Ode kwe               o kwe                    ago kwe

This kwe               that kwe                that kwe over there

Gode kwek           gi kwek                 egi kwek

These kwek           those kwek           those kwek over there

Gode nenwik        gi nenwik              egi nenwik

These men            those men             those men over there


Ode             this             i         that             e’i      that over there

Node           these           ni       those           eni     those over there


Ode jiman             i jiman                  e’i jiman

This boat              that boat               that boat over there

Ode mkesen          i mkesen               e’i mkesen

This shoe              that shoe               that shoe over there

Node mkesnen      ni mkesnen           eni mkesnen

These shoes          those shoes           those shoes over there

Node tetagnen       ni tetagnen            eni tetagnen

These bells            those bells             those bells over there     

Next are the Affixes:

Affixes fall into two categories.

Prefixes       those little words we put in front of, or before words.

They don’t usually stand alone and must be used as preverbs or prenouns.

Suffixes      those little words we add to the end of nouns and verbs.

They determine who we are talking about or to, and generally take on                singular and plural forms as well.

Interrogatives are questions.

Some examples.

Ni pi je can mean where but is also an interrogative.

Ni je pi can mean when but is also an interrogative.

Ne somewhere in the text of a sentence usually refers to a question and can sometimes be at the end of a query. (Ne can sometimes refer to the beginning or start of something also; example: ni je pi ne gwi zhyayen ibe; when are you going to start out to go over there?)

In addition to learning these “building blocks” of learning this language, one must have a certain amount of knowledge of verbs and nouns, know how to use them in various situations, everyday use, and whatever may be appropriate for them.

One cannot learn one word at a time but must be able to use whatever they are learning in an everyday context. You won’t be able to learn to speak any language simply by using a dictionary, perhaps one might at least get some better direction using a lexical type of work that cites examples of word use.

Introductions in Potawatomi:

Bo zho___________________


Ahau, bo zho__________________

Oh, hello_____________________

Hau, bo zho___________________

Oh, hello_____________________

Ni je eshe ne kas yen?

What is your name?/What are you called?

________________ndesh ne kas.

My name is____________________


My name is_____________./or, I am_______________.

Ni pi je wech bya yen?

Where are you from?

_________________ndoch bya.

I am from_________________.

Ni o gdotem?

What is your clan?

Mkwa o ndotem./Wasi o ndotem.

I am bear clan./I am catfish clan.

If one doesn’t know their clan:

Jo nge ken masi o ndotem.

I don’t know my clan.

Jo she nge masi o ndotem.

I really don’t know my clan.

Sometimes one does not have a clan, either they are non Native or simply do not have a clan:

Jo nde tosi o ndotem

I don’t have a clan

Gchemokman ndaw Jo nde tosi o ndotem

I am non Native I don’t have a clan

Ni pi je ende bendagziyen?

Where are you enrolled?

__________________nde bendagwes.

I am enrolled at________________.

Jo she gkendan ende bendagziyan.

I really don’t know where I am enrolled.

Jo nge kendan ende bendagziyan.

I don’t know where I am enrolled.

Neshnabe ne gdaw?

Are you Indian?

Wegni je eni yen?

What tribe are you?

Weni je gi ngetsimek?

Who are your parents?

Mine wiye gi ngetsimek.

Those are my parents.

Wiye o nneneyem, mine wiye o ndedeyem.

That is my mother and that is my father.

Ni pi je ediyen?

Where do you live?


I live in_______________.

Gskono ne ngoji?

Do you go to school somewhere?

_______________________nde nskono.

I go to___________________________.

Mkwa ne gdotem?

Are you bear clan?

Wasi ne gdotem?

Are you catfish clan?

Ni je etse pon ges yen?

How old are you?

__________________ndetse pon ges.

I am________________years old.

Ni je etse pon gezet o?

How old is he/she?

__________________pon geze o.

He/she is________________old.

Ni je pi wa dbe shka yen?

When is your birthday?

________________gishgek nwi dbe shka.

My birthday is on the_______________.

Example:Ede men gizes engot watso gishgek nwi dbe shka.

My birthday is on the 6th of June.

Minke gizes en mdatso shech ngotwatso gishgek nwi dbe shka.

My birthday is on the 16th of August.

Engot watso gishgek ngi nda des.

I was born on the 6th.

En mdatso shech ngotwatso ngi nda des.

I was born on the 16th.

Kche mezodanen ne gi byeshen?

Do you come from a big family?

Gokbenagen bkwakwet ne gchikas?

Do you play basketball?

Gwi ne widokwo?

Do you want to play?

Ni je na je aizho bkwakwet?

How about volleyball?

Mine, gwi ne widokwo?

And do you want to play?

Iw, bama pi mine gwi kigdomen.

That’s it, until another time we’ll talk again.

Bama pi mine ge nwabmen

Until another time I’ll see you again too.

Bama pi mine gwi gwabmenem.

Until another time we’ll see you again. (pl.)