Potawatomi beaded 
belt bullet nIshnabe'k - The People

bode'wadmimo speak Potawatomi
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BWAKA - about us

About the Potawatomi people
Our history and culture
Our literature, art and crafts
Our family - genealogy
Our people today

McKinney in Sunflower Journeys

The Potawatomi are an American Indian nation from the woodlands or Great Lakes area of North America. The exact meaning of the word Potawatomi is not known, but most sources translate it as "People of the Place of the Fire." Potawatomis call themselves in their own language, nIshnabe'k white 
bullet, which simply means, the people.

The Potawatomi Indians come from the woodlands of North America. When the cmokmanek bullet (whites) first encountered us in the seventeenth century, we were living on the peninsula jutting out into Lake Michigan where Green Bay, Wisconsin, is located today. Subsequently, we prospered and expanded into present day Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.

lands, 1812
Potawatomi lands at their peak, 1812

As the American nation expanded westward we were forced to leave our homes and disbursed in many directions. As a consequence, we are now organized into a number of different groups or bands, several of which are recognized as independent tribes by the U.S. government. We view ourselves as a single people in many important ways.

As a tribe, we have never abandoned our traditional language and customs. Even on the reservations, however, fluent speakers of our language are few and, for the most part, aging. We McKinneys belong to the Prairie Band, one of the most traditional Potawatomi nations.

Band Reservation, Mayetta, Kansas
Prairie Band reservation

The people of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation were among those removed to west of the Mississippi in the 19th century by the federal government. Our reservation is near Mayetta, Kansas.

Here is a list of the Potawatomi bands, with links to their official websites, for the bands that maintain them. Addresses of the tribal offices can be found on the sources page in our genealogy section.

The Potawatomi bands come together in the fall of each year for a Traditional Gathering. The 1995 Gathering took place in Kansas; 1996 saw us in Hannahville, MI; Shawnee was the Gathering place in 1997; the sixth annual Gathering was hosted by the Nottawaseppi Huron Band at their reservation in Athens, Michigan in August, 1998.

Most of our people live away from the reservation. Through this website we hope to give these people -- of whom I am one -- an opportunity to increase their knowledge of our language and culture and enjoy what we hope will be an expanding collection of materials that celebrate the richness of our heritage.

Potawatomi beaded 

In our nIshnabe'k section, we share aspects of oulture and history of interest to all Potawatomi people, but especially to the Prairie Band, since that is our heritage. We touch on a wide range of subjects:

We are not attempting to cover any of these topics completely or in detail. Our hope is to build a collection of texts, graphics and references that we find worthwhile. Perhaps you will find them interesting, too.

Shipshee and Smoke (L.B.) McKinney (Smithsonian Institution photo)

History and culture

Two of our hypertexts tell a great deal about the history and culture of the Potawatomi People and particularly about the Prairie Band.

The Treaties Between the Potawatomi and the United States of America, 1789 - 1867. All of the treaties between the Potawatomi and the USA are here. Graphics are taken from the pictographs by Mogawh and Noname found on the signature pages of the treaties of July 4, 1805 and November 17, 1807. Our sources are George E. Fay's Treaties Between the Potawatomi Tribe of Indians and the United States of America, 1789 - 1867, Charles J. Kappler's Indian Treaties 1778-1883 and, in some cases, the treaties themselves as found on microfilm in the files of the National Archives. Tom Ford, one of our volunteers, did the research for this project.

Menominee's Letters. The treaty of August 5, 1836 ceded to the United States the reserve granted to Menominee, No-taw-kah, Muck-kah-tah-mo-way and Pee-pin-oh-waw and their bands by the treaty of October 26, 1832. The 1836 treaty does not carry Menominee's name. Menominee, Muck-kah-tah-mo-way, Pee-pin-oh-waw and the sons of No-taw-kah wrote at least three letters protesting that none of them had attended the council or signed the treaty and that the treaty was invalid. These protest letters are presented here thanks to Tom Ford who obtained copies from the National Archives.

Our next series of hypertexts deal with the Trail of Death, the forced march of more than eight hundred tribal members from their homes in Indiana to the reservation in Kansas in the fall of 1838.

Here are some additional historical materials:

Potawatomi pipe bowl
Potawatomi pipe bowl, Smithsonian collection, acquired 1869.

Literature, arts and crafts

A traditional Potawatomi blouse belonging to Peggy Kinder was photographed at the Powwow in Shawnee last summer by Eric and Susan Campbell. Peggy told us about the blouse, and about the ribbon work on her skirt. Our thanks to Peggy, Eric and Susan.

Long Elk at Little Bighorn by Jack Wooldridge is a beautiful painting by a contemporary Citizen Potawatomi Nation artist and writer, and a good friend. We are honored that he has offered it to us for exhibit here.

beaded featherPoems by Susan Campbell, including "Cage NokmIsen," which tells the story of the Trail of Death, and two recent works.

Potawatomi beadwork and ribbon applique at the Denver Museum of Natural History
Susan obtained permission for us to display these photos of a few of the museum's Potawatomi holdings.

Potawatomi beadwork Some lovely Potawatomi beadwork on display at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Museum in Shawnee, Oklahoma, belongs to Susan Campbell's family. Susan has given us permission to use photographs of the pieces and designs from them on the website.

We expect to add links to Potawatomi writing and art and crafts in the future. We hope to reproduce a collection of photographs of Potawatomi arts and crafts over time. If you have any ideas about where we can locate material or who we might contact in this regard, please let us know.

Detail -- beaded sash


Our genealogy section was added in November, 1997. Susan Campbell of the Citizen Nation Potawatomi has volunteered to develop these pages. She tells how to begin a genealogy study, and has developed a list of links and resources especially relevant to the Potawatomi researcher. We provide some important historical member lists of several bands and look forward to building a collection of family trees and stories.

The People Today

Many Potawatomi have embraced the opportunities for education and communication that technology makes available. Prairie Band has an official website. It has information on our tribe and reservation; on the tribal council and tribal programs, including phone numbers; on the history of the tribe and some of our stories; and about the casino on the reservation. It contains an online copy of our official brochure that is given to visitors to the reservation. All of the official websites that Potawatomi bands maintain are listed above.

We recommend
Gary Mitchell's Gary Mitchell "Stories of the Potawatomi People" for insights into the life and concerns of the Potawatomi and particularly the Prairie Band today.

Rez now

Click the map above to see a detail map of the contemporary reservation. Please note: the map is large in size. The file is 412 KB - nearly half a million bytes - and may take a while to download into your computer.

Potawatomi woman - portrait by George 
Winter We remember our grandfathers in many ways. One of them is the Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan, first held in 1988, 150 years after the original Trail of Death. Five years later, a second Caravan traveled the route of the original forced removal. In September, a third Commemorative Caravan followed the route, now officially designated the Trail of Death Regional Historic Trail, once more.

Jack's icon Keeping our culture alive and passing it on to our children is a vital concern for many of us who live off the reservation as well as for those who live on it. Jack Wooldridge, a member of the Citizen Nation and, to our delight, a member of our BWAKA group, is a writer and artist whose children's stories introduce young readers to Potawatomi words and values. You will enjoy a visit to his charming website .

icon Pictures of nake'ndumwajek ("wise ones"; speakers) that were videotaped in 1995.

icon Pictures from the Seven Bands Traditional Gathering, Prairie Band Reservation, Mayetta, KS, 1995

Gathering 96 icon Pictures from the Seven Bands Traditional Gathering, Hannahville Reservation, Hannahville, MI, 1996

Gathering 97
icon Pictures from the Seven Bands Traditional Gathering, Citizen Nation Reservation, Shawnee, OK, 1997

McKinney icon McKinney family pictures

Potawatomi beaded 

About the Potawatomi people
Our history and culture
bode'wadmimo speak Potawatomi
mzenegenek books
nizhokmake'wen resources/help
eagle aloft Our literature, art and crafts
Our people today
Home Page: news & updates
BWAKA - about us

We welcome your questions and comments.
Text and graphics copyright © Smokey McKinney 1997

A Kansas Heritage Group site