Online Potawatomi Language Course

This class is open to everyone. And regardless of the purpose for choosing this course, it is all meant to benefit the learner.

As the Summer classes begin to close, students are looking forward to the Fall 2022 Semester commencing.

Starting in August, OCCC students can enroll into the Potawatomi Language course to gain an understanding of the Potawatomi Nation’s culture and history. Along the way, students will inherit the skills to write one’s own children’s book. The course will be taught by Professor Robert Collins.

Associate of Collins and Education Director of the Potawatomi nation Tesia Zientek has observed and supported the flourishing of this course in hopes of providing folks “opportunities to connect and to learn”.

The nation has origins rooting from the 17th century. Back in this time frame, the nation had grown in the northeastern section of today’s United States. As they’ve migrated and settled by the Great Lakes, thereafter comes forced relocations. At first it seemed that the tribe was done for, but they pushed through to keep their heritage alive. Citizens can be found all across the world but the tribe’s prime location is in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

“We are a women’s tribe that originated in the far northeast of what is now the United States up into what is now Canada. We had a voluntary migration from that area to the Midwestern Great Lakes area. And we lived there for a long time until we had several forced removals, the largest and most destructive of which we call the Trail of Death. And that brought us from Indiana, down to Kansas. Several folks passed away on that journey. And then from Kansas, a group of Potawatomi decided to purchase land within Indian Territory in Oklahoma in an effort to gain citizenship, and hopefully escape broken treaties and promises we’ve experienced prior to that point…our tribe now is headquartered in Shawnee, Oklahoma…, we have about 38,000 citizens who are scattered throughout the United States and the world.” Zientek said.

The history behind this nation is sad, but it sure is a great thing that the culture is still able to be taught at several colleges. And OCCC is one of them!

Potawatomi Language I is looking to be taught in-person as well as through Zoom. It will run on Mondays from 3PM to 4PM as well as by appointments. The course will cover many subjects regarding the tribes such as the language itself, history, even storytelling.

“Potawatomi Language 1 covers the foundation of the language…we have a very verb heavy language, so it’s quite different from what most students will have been exposed to…, we’ve had it split into seasons…there are four quarters to cover each of the seasons. And so we’re doing our best. The goal of the course is to incorporate tribal culture as well, because that’s how our language works…then as they go, every quarter, the students are working toward creating their own children’s storybook…we’re asking students to be a part of that efforts by creating our ultimate children’s books that would eventually help, we hope and would love to use them within our language courses that we teach here at our Child Development Center, and so they will be adding to our library of resources by writing their own.” described Zientek.

As teaching in person gives a more personal and interactive experience, the idea behind this course is to bring awareness to the Potawatomi nation as a whole. This course is available to anyone looking to gain their language credits.

“Our overarching goal is to expose more flexible language and hopefully increase our population of language speakers…some secondary goals are just to offer the language and raise the profile of the language at the college campus…I hope what they walk away with is an understanding of how much culture is wrapped up in language regardless of what language you speak, but specifically about Potawatomi. But when you speak, there is some inherent understanding of the world…so understanding these connections and how they can shape our world a little bit differently, I think students have a right to see that there’s a value to thinking more deeply about how language and culture intertwine. ” Zientek states.

In a similar perspective, Chair of Languages Ginnett Rollins sees great beneficial goals from the development of this class.

“It offers students a wider variety of languages to study. This course is structured so that you would be able to also transfer to another university,…they want to promote the Potawatomi language and culture throughout the United States.” she states.

Along with this, the school is planning to launch a Potawatomi Language II in Fall 2023.

It’s always nice to be able to develop new skills and gain new knowledge on cultures around the world. And with this course, students can develop knowledge around a local tribe.

“I think that this is another way to offer students a suite of ways to interact and connect to their language and culture is just another opportunity, if they’re not able to come on site classes, or if we are, you know, you know, occasional classes you have that arrive online, your schedule is another opportunity that they can take and get credit at the same time.“ Zientek expresses.

Coming from someone who enjoys learning and teaching languages, Rollins sees this as a great learning opportunity for various students.

“This impacts students in that they now have another offering, if they would like to take Potawatomi as their language requirement, for example, they could do that. I also think it impacts students in that they can learn a new culture, a Native American culture that before we had, we have not had that opportunity. And since we have at least 43 students from the Potawatomi Nation or with a background with the Potawatomi Nation, this offers them that opportunity to learn their own language and anyone else interested in learning it as well.” she expresses

This class is open to everyone. And regardless of the purpose for choosing this course, it is all meant to benefit the learner.

In a language perspective, Rollins believes that if someone enjoys writing, that they would enjoy this course since “you’re going to write a story in that language”.

From a cultural standpoint, Zientek believes that this will give a proper glimpse on what the culture holds.

She states, “I think that a lot of times people think about indigeneity in terms of the past,…One picture that makes people think that indigenous people don’t exist, or certainly don’t exist in the way that we do. We look all kinds of different ways…We have different relationships to our culture and identity. And so taking this course is a way for people to understand a modern perspective on what it means for Potawatomi. And to help us carry forward that culture.”

So, if one is looking for a language credit, or if one wants to write a story while getting to know a new culture, check out the Potawatomi Language course coming in this Fall semester. The intriguing culture and the connections that can be made to modern life will make this course the one to cherish.

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