A newly launched genealogy website hopes to help members of the Potawatomi Nation uncover information about their family's past.
Most people have heard of or used a genealogy website, like Ancestry or 23 and Me to learn more about their family's past; but those mainstream sites may not help people of all cultures.
After about six years of work, the Potawatomi Nation has launched its own tribal genealogy website. Its goal is to help tribal members reach across state lines and generations to build their family tree.
"The information that is provided by us, the nation and it has all been vetted," explained Dr. Kelli Mosteller, Executive Director of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center.
Mezodanek, or family, is the Potawatomi Nation's new genealogical website and database. The resource is stocked with written records that date back to treaties and the 1700s. Members are allowed to trace their roots as far back as to the founding families.
Mosteller said people aren't limited to blood relatives either.
"You can also add in if you have an auntie. That's a relationship that's really important in native communities. It may not be a blood relationship but you're able to add them into your family profile," she said.
Mosteller said the treatment of Indigenous people throughout the nation's history makes it crucial to have a resource like Mezodanek.
"The federal government was in charge of keeping records of our ancestors and they didn't always do a great job," Mosteller said. "From removals to reservations to boarding schools to all of the things that have happened to us through Indian policy the last 200 years, 300 years have added that challenge of not being able to keep our communities together to pass these things down."
The website launched over a month ago and about 350 tribal members have made a profile.
A tribal ID number is needed to create a profile. People married to someone with an ID can also create a profile. Each person can add their tribal name, and clan to their page.
There is a place to post oral history as well, which was the main way information was passed on in Indigenous families before colonizers arrived to the U.S. Those who've logged in to Mezodanek so far have already started connecting with long lost family members.
"They're third cousins, they've never met in person but now they've exchanged emails and are getting to know each other,” Mosteller said. “One lives in Texas and the other in California."
The Potawatomi Nation plans to host a virtual tutorial on how to use the website during their annual powwow later this year.