Potawatomi language struggles to survive

Cecelia Jackson is the only person remaining at the Prairie Band Potawatomi reservation near Mayetta who can speak its native language fluently. But she’s doing all she can to ensure the language is preserved for future generations.

The problem is, she’s 87 years old. This situation represents many of the problems tribal communities and governments are having with preserving their languages and expanding the base of fluent speakers.

Through her efforts, a Prairie Band Potawatomi dictionary, two audio/video DVD books and a book titled “Stories of the Potawatomi” have been written in the native language. Most recently, a grammar book has been published.

She also has played a key role in the development of documents and materials for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Language and Cultural Department.

The tribe created the Language and Cultural Department in 1998 with the mission of revitalizing the Potawatomi language and culture.

The department has taught classes to children at the Nation’s Boys and Girls Club and Ben-no-tteh Wigwam Early Childhood Education Center. Since 2007, language and cultural classes, partially funded by a three-year grant from the Administration for Native Americans, have been offered to adults and families.

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