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Citizen Potawatomi Nation Family Reunion welcomes tribal citizens home

The Citizen Potawatomi Nation Family Reunion will hold cultural events and voting for the tribal election.
Citizen Potawatomi Nation
The Citizen Potawatomi Nation Family Reunion will hold cultural events and voting for the tribal election.

More than 3,000 tribal members are expected to grow in their culture and traditions during the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Family Reunion, which takes place June 28-30.

Margaret Zientek is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and works for the tribe as the Workforce and Social Services Director.

After being a tribal employee for 27 years, she witnessed firsthand how the annual gathering shifted from a big public event to an intimate gathering of only tribal citizens and their immediate families. She said this shift occurred more than 20 years ago.

“Over the years, we had gone from Potawatomis in the arena to Potawatomis in the stands to not a whole lot of Potawatomis at this inter-tribal powwow,” Zientek said.

She said because of the increase in visitors and the shift of focus away from cultural importance and community building, the tribal leaders at the time expressed a need for a change, laying the groundwork for the Family Reunion citizens experience today.

While a powwow is still held at the gathering, community members can also elevate their cultural understanding through activities like beadwork, a stickball demonstration and Potawatomi language classes. They can also participate in family interviews, where history can be recorded and preserved for years to come.

“If you don't capture history now, 20 years from now, what do you know?” Zientek asked. “You don't know it. So you have to capture it.”

Zientek also emphasized the importance of tribal voting and the General Council. On Saturday, tribal members of age can vote from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Following voting, the General Council will be held at 3 p.m., and election results will be shared.

Citizens traveling into town who need their annual doctor’s check-ups or eye appointments can also check those things off the list at the reunion. A voluntary census is also expected to be conducted to continue expanding the history of the tribe and data that can be shared for grant opportunities.

Out of the 38,000 tribal citizensof the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Zientek expects more than 3,000 to attend — traveling across the country and overseas.

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Sarah Liese reports on Indigenous Affairs for KOSU.
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