Potawatomi is Algonquian language spoken by fewer than 50 mainly elderly people in Ontario and the north-central United States. Efforts are currently being made by various bands of Potawatomi to revitalise and revive their language. The Potawatomi call themselves Nishnabek and there are about 28,000 of them.
For many generations the Potawatomi used a pictographic form of writing in which each symbol represents ideas rather than words or sounds. The symbols were carved into bark or wood with a knife or other sharp tool. Sometimes charcoal or paint were used as well. This script was used for various purposes, including ceremonies, keeping records, maps and illustrating stories.
Between 1830 and 1860 two Jesuit missionaries, Fr. Christian Hoecken and Fr. Maurice Gailland, developed a spelling system for the Potawatomi using the Latin alphabet. The system is syllabic in that combinations of consonants and vowels are used to represent single syllables, e.g. ba, be, bi, etc. The system was known as the 'ba-be-bi-bo-bu' syllabary.