That is Potawatomi for hello! As I am part American Indian Potawatomi I wanted to write something of my own ancestors for American Indian heritage month. A lot of people haven’t heard of the Potawatomi’s. They aren’t as famous as Apache, Navajo or many others that we have heard about through books or movies.
The Potawatomi Indians or Bodéwadmi as they call themselves were a part of a long-term alliance called The Council of Three Fires with the Ojibwe and Ottawa . The name Bodewadimi means “keepers of the fire”.
The Potawatomi are first mentioned in French records, which suggest that in the early 17th century, they lived in what is now southwestern Michigan. During the Beaver Wars they fled to the area around Green Bay, Wisconsin to escape attacks by both the Iroquois and the Neutral Nation, who were seeking expanded hunting grounds.
As an important part of Tecumseh’s Confederacy, Potawatomi warriors took part in Tecumseh’s War, the War of 1812 and the Peoria War. Their allegiance switched repeatedly between the British and the Americans as power relations shifted between the nations.
Today, the Potawatomi are a thriving community. They provide health services and education to the people, with revenues generated from the tribe’s gaming and other business operations. I remember when I was young, the Potawatomi community were quite poor. They had issues with drugs, alcohol and health. Now, they have active programs to deal with the drugs and alcohol issues. They also have very active health programs. I know that within a relatively short amount of time they went from being the poorest tribe to the third richest tribe within the United States. In part because they got leadership that looked toward the future of their people.
The Forest County Potawatomi (FCP) have lived in Forest County, Wisconsin, since the late 1800s. Around 1880, groups settled in areas near Blackwell and Wabeno and have lived in that area since, as well as in the Carter and Crandon (or Stone Lake) areas. My mother was born and raised in Wabeno, Wisconsin, she is now one of a short list of elders of the Forest County Potawatomi tribe.
I have always loved being part American Indian. My mother used to tell us stories of when she grew up and even as an adult. There were lots of restaurants, bars and stores that would not serve Indians. They had signs up that said they wouldn’t. Much like the Afro-Americans in the south there was much prejudice about Indians. In some places that prejudice still survives. It always seem so hypocritical to me. The American Indians were here way before anyone else. Yet we were looked at as savages when the white man killed us at every chance, took our lands away and herded us like cattle onto reservations where we would starve to death over the winters. Now really, who were the savages??
Here is a timeline of the Potawatomi tribes movements.
In the beginning, the Neshnabek (Original People) settled along the shores of the great salt water (Atlantic Ocean), near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.
1,000 Years Ago
Movement began towards the Great Lakes.
Near Saulte Ste. Marie, the Neshnabek split into three groups – the Ojibwe (Keepers of the Faith), the Odawa (Keepers of the Trade), and the Bodewadmi (keepers of the Fire). This relationship is known as the Three Fires Confederacy.
The Potawatomi moved towards Southwestern Michigan.
First encounter with Europeans: the French explorer Jean Nicolet visits the Potawatomi near Red Banks (Green Bay, WI).
17th and 18th Century
As strong allies of Nouvelle France, the Potawatomi control the fur trade in the Western Great Lakes.
In 43 treaties, the Potawatomi were forced by the US Government to cede all their lands between Wisconsin and Ohio.
In the 1833 chicago treaty, the largest land cession contained 5 million acres.
After the signing of the 1833 treaty, most Potawatomi were forcibly removed west. This march became known as the “Potawatomi Trail of Death”.
Simon Kahquados, last known Chief of the Wisconsin Potawatomi is born at Black Earth Village in Kewaunee County.
The Reverend Eric Morstad assists several strolling Potawatomi families near Wabeno, WI homesteads under the Indian Homestead act of 1884.
W.M. Wooster, b.I.A. Special agent conducts census and reports 1,972 Wisconsin Potawatomi Indians.
Through the efforts of Charles Kishek and Reverend Eric Morstad, 11,786 acres of land is purchased using treaty monies.
Native Americans are granted U.S. Citizenship by act of Congress. (The irony of it boggles the mind!)
The Potawatomi Tribe is reorganized under the Act of 1934 and officially become the Forest County Potawatomi Community.
Forest County Potawatomi lands granted “reservation” status
. National Indian Gaming Act (N.I.G.A.) passed.
A four tribe alliance of the Potawatomi, Oneida, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and Viejas Band of Southern California build a partnership venture and open the Residence Inn in Washington D.C.
We as people have come a long way through out history. It’s nice that we have a month for teaching about our heritage. It is a rich and vital one. We are people who are tough and resilient. We needed to be. The traditions and rituals have kept us strong. The cornerstone of those beliefs is the Circle of Life that parallels the seasons of nature. The Circle of Life is a demonstration of the Potawatomi reverence for all living things and nurtures the belief that they are a self-reliant and self-determined nation of people.