Our mission is to promote the visibility of contemporary Native people in Berks County and beyond through community education, leadership, and activism.
In order to place Indians in the present day, we must change the false narratives surrounding the colonization of North America in order to accurately represent American Indians in formative education. Once our children have been taught that there is nothing to say about Indians after 1900, once they have learned the stereotype of the Plains Indian atop a horse and wearing a war bonnet, and once they have learned that American Indians have faded away into history, it’s hard for them to see Natives in any other light.
We envision a community within Greater Berks that embodies Native values and sees and celebrates the real contributions of Native people throughout history and in the present day.
Widoktadwen in Bodewadmimwen, the Potawatomi language, means community. The root of this word roughly translates to together, with each other, or helping each other. Our name literally translates to the Community Center for Native Knowledge.
Relationships are the living and beating heart of a healthy community, and as Native people we seek to live in right relationship with each other, Mother Earth, and our Creator. It was important to us to include that ethos of a healthy community grounded in our relationships in our name and our mission.
We strongly believe that only a cultural shift in mindset, values, and priorities will create the lasting positive change we seek in our society. We are aware of the deeper ills that afflict our society, like consumerism, greed, individualism, prejudice, and fear. We’ve learned to value money and commodities over health and life–and, friends, we are due for a cultural shift. We still live in a world that oppresses countercultural narratives and targets people of color, and our society is largely ignorant of the ways in which these behaviors stem from corrupt systems designed to serve white supremacy and the idea of a single American culture. But together, as a community, we can begin to break down the oppressive systems that no longer (or never did) serve us and build something far greater.
Community is the medicine. We are the medicine.
Fire in the Potawatomi tradition represents the spirit of the people. The fire also refers to the Seven Fires prophecies of the Nishnabe. Fire keeps us warm, cooks our food, and lights our world. Fire symbolizes our spirituality, our connectedness to the Creator, and the essence of our spiritual selves. Fire is where we gather.
There’s a legend among some Eastern Woodland people about the Rainbow Crow, who carries the Creator’s gift of fire from the sun to nourish the people. We keep the fire of the Creator and the fire of our people.
Potawatomi is the anglicized version of Bodewadmi, which translates to “people of the place of the fire.” The Potawatomi were a part of the Three Fires Council, which also included the Ojibwe and Odawa. The Ojibwe were the keepers of the trade, the Odawa were the keepers of the medicine, and the Potawatomi were the keepers of the fire.
We must never let that fire be extinguished.
Widoktadwen Center for Native Knowledge is formed exclusively for charitable and educational purposes within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or the corresponding provisions of any future United States Internal Revenue Law, provided that, without limited the generality of the foregoing, Widoktadwen Center for Native Knowledge’s specific purposes shall include: promoting the visibility of Native Americans by partnering with educational institutions, using digital communication, and participating in community events to educate and make accurate and authentic information available to everyone, ultimately improving social outcomes for Native Americans and their communities.
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