Join Pokagon Potawatomi Indian John N. Low as he discusses the history of the use of a vast network of trails and portages in Northeastern Illinois between two great water systems: the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes.
Indigenous peoples had long settled in villages in what is now northeastern Illinois, prior to contact with Europeans. Northeastern Illinois was one of the best places to portage between two great water systems: the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. Native peoples could paddle to the St. Lawrence River or Allegheny River in the east, and on to the Atlantic Ocean or south to the Gulf of Mexico or to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the west. Native Americans understood the importance of this geography and took advantage of this portage system to trade goods for hundreds of years before European settlers arrived. Today’s residents of Aurora and surrounding communities also know the richness of the soil and the resources that made the region a very special place to live.
In July the Pokagon Band welcomed Wen Peihong, a Chinese scholar currently completing a translation of Simon Pokagon’s 1899 novel Queen of the Woods into Mandarin Chinese. Wen learned more about the people and culture while meeting with the tribal archivist, interviewing Pokagon tradition bearers, and observing a language class.A professor at China’s Southwest University for Nationalities, Wen researches indigenous and ethnic minorities and their cultural preservation and revival efforts.
Dr. John Low, a Pokagon Band citizen and professor at Ohio State University, met Wen at an international conference on ethnic minority languages and invited her to his Potawatomi community.
Wen spent the last year visiting and studying in the U.S. and meeting with other native communities. Translating Queen of the Woods is complicated, as each Chinese symbol represents syllables in English words. Wen and her colleague, Aku WuWu, a poet who writes in the Yi language, are very interested in preservation and promotion of Yi, and in Native Americans as an ethic minority. WuWu is the author of Coyote Traces, a book Wen helped translate about the Yi and the indigenous people of American and the interconnections between cultures and languages.
“Leading members from the Oneida Nation, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and United Houma Nation of Louisiana discuss vital issues of tribal citizenship in Indian Country. By exploring topics such as constitutional reform, tribal enrollment, blood quantum, and descendancy, the speakers discuss the many different ways Native tribes and nations define, grant, and express indigenous citizenship.”