After four years, one of our language apprentices, Kyle Malott, is returning to Dowagiac to share what he’s learned from native Potawatomi speakers in Wisconsin. He’s been studying the language as well as crafting teaching tools, along with fellow language apprentice, Carla Collins. Carla will return in June, after her son finishes school.
“I’m ready,” Kyle says about returning to Dowagiac. “I miss home. I like it up here, but I’d rather be home.”
Kyle plans to lead students in conversations amongst themselves, getting away from only writing the language. He’ll be using some traditional teaching methods with total physical response (TPR) tactics in which students will speak the language and act out what they are saying or say a word and see a photo of what it represents. A Menominee teacher introduced Kyle and Carla to this method of teaching.
Kyle is ready with materials like PowerPoint presentations featuring Potawatomi words only and images and deeper history about the origins of Potawatomi words. Kyle describes his language level as “high intermediate.” He and Carla can have conversations in Potawatomi, and Kyle is looking forward to “trying to help everybody along.”
When Kyle returns, he will become a full-time Language & Culture staff member, another part of his homecoming. He worked in the department from 2011–2012, just before he left to become a language apprentice. Kyle says language classes have changed dramatically since he left. Students now speak the language, not just write it.
The apprentices have been learning from some of the fewer than 10 fluent Potawatomi speakers, who are all aged above 70. This dwindling number pushes Kyle to learn and teach others.
“Learn all you can as much as you can,” Kyle says about Potawatomi language learning. “It’s who we are. If we don’t have language, we cease to be Potawatomi.”
Kyle will continue working with Jim Thunder in Wisconsin, returning there monthly so he can keep up his language knowledge and bring back new materials for students.