Bmadzewen [life] and our existence are in tune with the environment. We interact with our world in concurrent cycles of four, understanding that physical and spiritual realms are always in motion. Our sacred medicines, lifecycles, directional powers, and the creation and destruction of world progress on this principle.
Governing our ancient world was the season. Each season warranted and prohibited certain activities, and was welcomed with celebratory ceremonies, songs, dances, and stories. Today, Potawatomi still honors the seasons with wisne’wéwen [feasts], the most important falling on the vernal [spring] and autumnal [fall] equinoxes. Each feast commences with the lighting of a sacred shkodé [fire] that is protected and attended to over the four-day period.
The story of Potawatomi and other Neshnabe peoples stretches back to times lost to history, beginning on the East Coast of what is now North America. By the time Europeans arrived, the Great Migration of prophecy was complete, and the tribes were living around the Great Lakes, with a social structure that included a strong communal lifestyle. The people were bound together through ties of kinship, custom, and mutual necessity.
Communities built their villages around clan systems and extended families. Traditionally, individual communities were led by village approved councils and headmen whose power stemmed from their relationship with, and influence over, the people. Leaders who wielded authority enjoyed the privilege because people respected their opinions enough to heed their advice; they used this authority and power for influence to create alliances and build relationships with councils and headmen of neighboring tribes.
Lifeways/Potawatomi Indigenous Worldview
Potawatomi lifeways refer to the pattern that is linked to the Indigenous Potawatomi value system and is exhibited in Potawatomi customs, sanctions, habits, and meanings. It is a distinct way of viewing and thinking about the cosmos and the ways that Potawatomi people assess life’s actions in terms of those views. It is the interactions between that worldview and the localized Potawatomi subsistence-based economy.
Benton-Banai, Edward. The Mishomis Book: Voices of the Ojibway (1988)
John A. Grim. (2001). Indigenous traditions and ecology : the interbeing of cosmology and community. Harvard Press. Cambridge, MA.