On possession in the Potawatomi construct

Inalienable Possession

Understanding possession requires knowledge of the personal pronouns and their corresponding prefixes and suffixes.  In Bodewadmimwen, body parts and relatives fall into a special class of nouns that are considered “inalienably” possessed.  This means that to be grammatically correct, you cannot just have a Foot or a Mother; you have to specify whose foot or whose mother it is.  Body parts and relatives are considered “Dependent” nouns.

Nkat               My leg                                   Ngyé              My mother

Gkat               Your leg                                 Ggyé              Your mother

Wkaten         His/her leg                            Wgyéyen      His/her mother

Nkatmenan  Our leg (not yours)            Ngyénan       Our mother (not yours)

Gkatmenan Our leg (+you)                     Ggyénan       Our mother (+you)

Gkatmewa   Your leg (pl.)                        Ggyéwa         Your mother (pl.)

Wkatmewa  Their leg                                Wgyéwan     Their mother

The pattern looks slightly different when the noun is plural.  Remember, body parts are inanimate, while relatives are animate:

Ntogen                      My ears                     Nmeshomsek          My grandfathers

Gtogen                      Your ears                  Gmeshomsek          Your grandfathers

Wtognen                  His/her ears             Wmeshomsen         H/h grandfathers

Ntogmenanen        Our ears (-you)       Nmeshomsenanek Our grandfathers-

Gtogmenanen        Our ears (+you)      Gmeshomsenanek Our grandfathers+

Gtogmewan            Your ears (pl.)         Gmeshomsewak    Your grandfathers

Wtogmewan           Their ears                 Wmeshomsewan   Their grandfathers

Here are some commonly used terms for relatives and friends.  Note that some terms are only used by men, while some terms are only used by women.

My maternal aunt  Noshé                        My nephew             Negwenes

My paternal aunt   Nshegwes                 My niece                   Nzhemes

My cousin                 Nitawes                     My parents              Ngetsimek

My daughter           Ndanes                      My younger sibling   Nshimé

My son                      Ngwes                       My brother (men)  Nnikan[1]

My grandmother   N’okmes                   My daughter in law  Ne’agnekwé

My child                    Nijanes                      My sister (women) Nidgeko

My grandchild         Nosés                         My sister (men)      Ndekwem

My uncle                   Nzheshé                    My son in law          Ne’angesh

My elder brother of male            Nsezé

My elder brother of female         Ndewéma

My brother in law of female       Nita

My brother in law of male           Niji

My elder sister of male                 Nmesé

My sister in law of male               Ninem

Family ties were of utmost importance to the old time Bodéwadmik, and relationships were very specific.  Many relationships had special places of honor in society.  For example, it was customary for a son-in-law to avoid speaking directly to his mother-in-law out of absolute respect for her. 

Here are some commonly used body parts.

My ear                       Ntog                           My ears                     Ntogen

My nose                    Njash

My eye                      Nshkishek                 My eyes                    Nshkishgwen

My throat                 Ngotaken                 

My mouth                Ndon

My chin                     Ndamken

My arm                     Nnek                          My arms                   Nnekén

My hand                   Nej/Nenji                  My hands                 Nenjin

My leg                       Nkat                           My legs                      Nkatén

My foot                     Nzet                           My feet                     Nzetén

My finger                  Nenjis                        My fingers                Nenjisen

My toe                       Nzetés                       My toes                     Nzetésen

My shoulder            Ndenmagen             My shoulders          Ndenmagnen

My head                   Nshtegwan              

Top of my head       Ndep

My hair                     Nwinsesén

My forehead           Ngeték

My back                    Npegwen

My tooth                  Nibet                          My teeth                   Nibden         

Alienable Possession

Objects that can be removed from a possessor are considered “Alienable.”  This means that the noun in question can be given away.  Nouns that fall into this category are considered “Independent” nouns.  Possession of this sort is shown as follows:

Inanimate Objects:

Nkomanem             My knife                               Nkomanen               My knives

Gkomanem              Your knife                             Gkomanen               Your knives

Wkomanem            His/her knife                        Wkomanen              His/her knives

Nkomanmenan      Our knife (not yours)        Nkomanmenanen  Our knives

Gkomanmenan      Our knife (yours too)        Gkomanmenanen  Our knives

Gkomanmewa        Your knife (pl.)                    Gkomanmewan      Your knives

Wkomanmewa       Their knife                            Wkomanmewan    Their knives

Animate Objects:

Ngazhoyem             My cat                                   Ngazhomek             My cats

Ggazhoyem             Your cat                                 Ggazhomek             Your cats

Wgazhomen            His/her cat                           Wgazhomen            His/her cats

Ngazhomenan        Our cat (not yours)            Ngazhomenanek    Our cats

Ggazhomenan        Our cat (yours too)            Ggazhomenanek    Our cats

Ggazhomewa          Your cat (pl.)                        Ggazhomewak        Your cats

Wgazhomewan      Their cat                                Wgazhomewan      Their cats

There are other ways to show possession of this type:

            Ndo komanem                                My knife

            Nin ma ode koman                        This is my knife (emphatic)

            Nin ndebendan ode koman        I own this knife

            Nin ma o nemosh                           That is my dog (emphatic)

            Nin ndebenma o nemosh            I own that dog

Gdo koman                                      Your knife

            Gin ma ode koman                        This is your knife (emphatic)

            Gin gdebendan ode koman         You own this knife

            Ndo komanmenan                         Our knife

            Ndo komanmenanen                    Our knives

            Ninan ndebendamen ode koman          We own this knife

            Gdo komanmenan                         Our knife

            Gdo komanmenanen                    Our knives

            Ginan ndebendamen node komanen   We own these knives       

Some special Possessive words:

Nda’i                          My pet dog

            Ndokyan                   My pet cat (can be used for other small animals)

            Ndéygwam              My pet horse

                                                Proximate                             Obviative

Singular

Nemosh        O Nemosh                            Ni Nemoshen

Bnéshi                        O Bnéshi                               Ni Bnéshiyen

Plural

Nemosh                    Gi Nemoshek                       Ni Nemoshen

Bnéshi                        Gi Bnéshiyek                        Ni Bnéshiyen

This does NOT mean the dog and the bird have become inanimate.  What they have become is 4th Person.

Nin/Ninan/Ginan = 1st Person

Gin/Ginwa = 2nd Person

Win/Winwa = 3rd Person

Nemosh wabman ni bnéshiyen

            The dog sees the bird (s)

                        Nemosh – 3rd Person        

                                    ni bnéshiyen – 4th person

He, pegdoshen i n(do)pkwakwetem

Ni pi je étémget i n(do)shkemotem?

Dopwenek éték i g(do)shkemotem

I yé i n(do)waboyanmenan!

I yé ni n(do)waboyanmenanen!

Hau, mnéschegén ni gchikaswenen!

Ni pi je étoyék ni gdabyanmewan?

Gégo toyék ni gdabyanmewan ibe!

Gishpen étoyék ni gdabyanmewan ibe égwan o mshenkiwnene wa je pamsét éwabdet ni gdabyanmewan ibe éwi mbyégét ni msenegasnen!

Wabek nwi shema o n(de)nemoyem.

Wabek nwi shemamen o n(de)nemomenan.

Wabek nwi shema o n’okmes wnemomen.

Wabek nwi shemak gi n(de)nemomek.

Wabek nwi shemamen gi n(de)nemomenanek.

Wabek nwi shema o ngétsimnek wnemomewan.

Ni pi je ék’kezot o gmeshomsewa wgazhomen?

Nemetsena éyéyet ni wgazhomen.  Cho nde wabmasi o!


[1] Nikan is also used for “My friend.”

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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