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Native American Stories of Resilience

Kathy Johnson

All text and audio copyright, 2015 by the Native American Development Center ©

Kathy Johnson:  Kathy Fredericks Johnson, and my Indian name is Eagle Plume, and my tribal affiliation is Three Affiliated – Mandan, Arikara, Hidatsa. I am Mandan and Arikara. My current place of residency is Bismarck, North Dakota, and I have been here off and on my entire life, but I moved back here about 16 years ago from the Reservation from Fort Berthold. I have two children, and I'm married to my husband, Rick. I have been married to him for 26 years. I have my MBA from the University of Mary. I am the current vice president of student services at United Tribes Technical College. I have been here at United Tribes for the past 11 and a half years. Prior to that I was with North Dakota State Infant Toddler Enrichment Program for 10 years, which was a program with the state of North Dakota, and I did that back at home in the Reservation for five years, and then I came to Bismarck, they recruited me to come and do the statewide program. I was raised by my mother and my father. I grew up and I split my time between the reservation and Bismarck.

                        I would spend my summers back home what I consider back home on the Reservation where my father had a ranching operation, so I was part of the crew that helped with the ranching. I grew up with a his, hers and theirs family. My dad had brought some children to the family unit, and my mother did, and then together they had three. Growing up in that situation, back in those days, I have a lot of fond memories of those times of our mixed family, and our summers, and between ranching and just all that entails, it's like nothing that we have today, I guess, it's good memories. I was raised by mom and my dad, and I had a lot of family around all the time.

Lorraine Davis:  Can you share with me what was it like growing up, if you can go on to further detail, what was it like growing up? I think you said in Twin Buttes?

Johnson:         In Twin Buttes, yeah.

Davis:              Twin Buttes.

Johnson:         What was it like? Well, we didn't live right in the community. We lived about three miles out of the community, and our life was surrounded by work. We worked from sunup to sundown whether you were cooking, cleaning, riding. We had a lot of work to be done. We all were expected to carry our load, and we did, without hesitation, and it was just expected. We didn't think anything of it. We just worked.

Davis:              So a strong work ethic is a value that was definitely taught to you?

Johnson:         Yes.

Davis:              What were some of the other values that are very fond to you that was taught by your parents?

Johnson:         I would say being good to people, being honest, being truthful, being good to family, always recognizing your family, acknowledging them, that was always very important. Back then actually, something that comes to mind, is that my dad used to always want to do and this was with my grandma, he used to always go visit my grandma who lived down the road. He used to always tell us to slow down. He saw that as we got older, we would want to come in and just briefly visit, and then, "Okay, we got to go." He would say, "No. You come in and you slow down, sit down. Let's visit. Talk to me about it. Let's have some coffee." Whatever he'd say, just come sit down, let's eat or whatever. We always had to eat our suppers together, and that carried through to my family, my personal, my two children, my husband. My kids grew up that way, we always had supper, and that's something that today are so thankful for because they said a lot of families that they knew, their friends, they didn't do that, I guess, but anyway we did that.

Davis:              Some of those values are being lost, I think, what we grew up with. What about spirituality, being Native American, share about that a little bit.

Johnson:         I should have mentioned spirituality because that was a very important part of our growing up as well. We went to church every Sunday. We celebrated all the holidays, and we said prayers every single day with our meals. We said prayers at night, it was a very big part. As far as the Native American part of it, in the spirituality, for me personally, I can't say that that's true for my older siblings, but for me and maybe my younger brother, probably we're the tail-end, I guess, if you want to say, I didn't get a whole lot of Native American spirituality. I didn't know a lot about my own culture. I guess I have to ask my mom why that would be but I went to most of my education off the Reservation.

Davis:              What grades did you get your education?

Johnson:         I came to Bismarck … I started out here in probably first or second grade. On my first year, I went to the Catholic school system, and when I went there, that's when I first learned that I was an Indian, from the Catholic school kids and the teachers.

Davis:              What grade were you then?

Johnson:         That had to have been first grade.

Davis:              First grade, okay.

Johnson:         First or second grade.

Davis:              Okay.

Johnson:         I was mistreated there both by the kids and by the teachers. The next year, my parents took me back out to Twin Buttes, and then there I became the White girl.

Davis:              Can't win, right?

Johnson:         Yup, because I've been gone, I went to the big town and now I was a White girl, so I spent another year out there, one or two years, and then I came back to Bismarck, and I went to the public school system instead of the Catholic school system.

Davis:              You must have been about fourth grade by this time?

Johnson:         Yup.

Davis:              Okay.

Johnson:         Went to public school system, and it was a little better there because, I think, there was another Native student in my class, and we had some Vietnamese, so there was a little bit of mixture there. I do remember my fourth grade teacher. I can remember, we were going out for recess and went down for luncheon. We were going down the stairs, for some reason, I looked back and the teacher was digging in my desk, but I didn't know why, and I knew that she had a problem with me. I just have those memories of that particular lady.

Davis:              A violation of your property that time.

Johnson:         There were more things that, I think, I probably repressed of that stuff.

Davis:              Right.

Johnson:         Anyways, so I got through that, and then I ended up going back to the Catholic school to Cathedral, and I took a couple of my friends with me, and-

Davis:              Can I ask what grade were you?

Johnson:         I would have went seventh and eighth grade at Cathedral, and then I went on to high school at Saint Mary's, and I graduated there.

Davis:              Okay. Seventh to eighth grade, you went to the Cathedral which was a Catholic school.

Johnson:         Yeah.

Davis:              In ninth grade to-

Johnson:         Twelfth, I went to Saint Mary's and then I graduated from there, graduated from high school.

Davis:              Do you want to share what your experience was like?

Johnson:         I would say that I spent a lot of my time ... I was accepted in the popular group, what's considered a popular group, so I had friends, but I never had boyfriends. I was never asked to dances, that kind of thing, and I think it had to do with the fact that I was ... And maybe it's just me thinking that, but I just never had any of that when I went to school there.

Davis:              Kathy, I'm looking at you and you're very beautiful.

Johnson:         Thank you.

Davis:              I know that you were beautiful back then, that doesn't go away. I'm just thinking that, it could have been that you were Native American? It's not that.

Johnson:         I feel that it was. Even back then, I felt that it was because I didn't come from ... We had a house in Bismarck where my dad ranched up at Twin Buttes, and my house in Bismarck was pretty much just a house, with your beds and it's very basic in there. I didn't come from ... A lot of my friends had big fancy homes, and they had cars, and they had access to money. Their lives were very different than from what I was used to, so I was always adapting. I just adapted to my surroundings so that I could hang in there. I always had to work because we didn't have a lot of money back then, so I always had a job, but so did my rich friends, my friends with money. They all had to work too, so I'm not saying that, but-

Davis:              Did you have a vehicle through high school?

Johnson:         I did not. I did not have a vehicle. I often reflect back on how on God's green earth did I get to work every single day without a vehicle. I must have had to beg and beg and beg, and I think I just had ... I did have some really good friends, some good people that took me to work. I worked at McDonald's on the end of Main, and everybody would be out on a Friday night driving up and down. All my friends would drive through would buy cheeseburger and say hi, there I was at work. I worked there and then I worked at the Osco Drug at the mall then I worked at Sergio's when it first opened up on Expressway. I was the first batch of waitresses there and they all thought I was Hispanic.

Davis:              Oh, really?

Johnson:         I put a Hispanic dress on so I got good tips, so yeah, I always worked.

Davis:              You feel you were treated differently because you didn't have the car, you didn't have the house, you didn't have the-

Johnson:         The money.

Davis:              The money, you looked different.

Johnson:         A lot of times with sports and athletics, it was like that back in my day too, back in the 80s. If I had excelled in anything, it didn't matter because a lot of what happened is the parents. The parents get in there, and they buy it through money or they ... You know how these athletics things go.

Davis:              Yes.

Johnson:         To add to that, I spent my summers and all my weekends, when I was younger before I could work, that was the thing when I got my job that I didn't have to ... I worked on the weekends then I didn't have to go out to the ranch on the weekends with my parents.

Davis:              Okay.

Johnson:         But prior to when I was old enough to work, I had to spend every weekend and every summer out on the ranch, so that took me out of a lot of social environments too.

Davis:              Okay.

Johnson:         I wasn't part of that social network that you get on the weekends, slumber parties, that kind of thing. My dad is very strict also, so I was never allowed to go sleep at people's homes or go to their cabins. I didn't get to camps. He just didn't feel the need to send me off to those places, so I didn't do any of that.

Davis:              Did you feel angry towards him? Did you go through that?

Johnson:         I didn't think anything of it because I loved going out to Twin Buttes. I loved what I did out there, and I always thought to myself, back then, we wrote letters. I got letters from my friends that used to write me little cute letters, and I guess I used to respond and send them little letters back. It said, "Dear Kathy, where are you? When are you coming back?" And stuff like that, but I loved it out there. I can remember many times riding and thinking, "They have no idea where I go." It's beautiful out here. I loved that life, I did. I can't say that I never felt resentful because I'm sure there were times when like if I wanted to play basketball. The basketball practice would start because school started, but my dad would say, "You're going to go back when school starts because we've got work, we got stuff to do out here." I would get led into the basketball program, and then you had to do tryouts and all those kinds of thing, but they already been working out for two weeks or whatever. They try to make me run extra and do all those kind of stuff to me and all. I was never cheerleader or anything like that. I never took part in any of that kind of stuff.

Davis:              Did you have a desire to, and just didn't feel you were good enough to do it or what was the reason?

Johnson:         I don't think I had a very good self-esteem. I couldn't imagine myself in front of all those people jumping around.

Davis:              Okay.

Johnson:         It wasn't for me.

Davis:              Were there other Native Americans attending in your class and in your school?

Johnson:         Not very many, no. I would say one here and there, but very, very few. I could say the one, your husband in high school. I went to high school with him. He was in high school, and there was another gal in high school, a Patinoid that went-

Davis:              Okay.

Johnson:         But it could be but anyways, there was another gal that went to school so all along there was just a real trickling of them. I remember when I was at the public school, and he was there, and he was just so shy and so unable to talk. He wasn't able to step out. I don't know where I'm ... I think that's what separated a little bit from, say for example, him, and I always wondered where he was, his name and everything. I always wondered whatever happened to him. You could tell he was going to be a nice-looking man, but he was just so painfully shy, and he really-

Davis:              Struggled.

Johnson:         Yeah, and he ended up leaving. He was only there for a year, maybe two years, and then he left, and never heard from him again.

Davis:              Did he just roam the hallways by himself and lunched by himself?

Johnson:         Oh, yeah, he was very much a loner.

Davis:              That always just pains me. I had a brother that went through that as well. Let's see here, so you shared your high school experience, what other things can you remember that were painful?

Johnson:         My most painful things really stem back to Cathedral when I was a very young girl when I went to the Catholic school the first time, so it would have been first and second grade, when I first realized I was an Indian. I could remember my best friend who was my best friend from that time on until recently, we used to walk to school together, and we would make a turn to go towards our school, and we have to separate. I had to walk on one side of the sidewalk, and she walked on the other so it didn't look like we walked together when we were friends.

Davis:              Oh, gosh.

Johnson:         But we spent every day after school together, and told her parents to pick her up, so yeah that was ... I did it, whatever. I never thought, whatever.

Davis:              Like you said, you adapt?

Johnson:         Yeah. I can't believe I'm getting a cough, I'm sorry. I would have to be on the meal program, the lunch program ... I'm just having a cough attack right now.

Johnson:         What I was saying is that back then I had to walk ... We walked on separate sides and that's when I really started to realize that was I different? I didn't feel different. Just because we got to that area but I had to adapt. I had to adapt and because of that at the time ... I know that know but I didn't realize I was being taught really valuable lessons that were going to carry me through today. When those things were happening to me how I dealt with them then, and how I continue to deal with all those kinds of things throughout my life have carried me to this point. Those are all a part of the recipe I believe. I didn't get mad and I didn't, you know this kind of stuff. I just took it. I'd get to school.

                        I had to be on the meal program, the reduced lunches. You would get a little card and you'd have to go in line and get it stamped, this kind of thing. All my friends brought cold lunches. They'd always have these nice little boxed or what have you. I can remember. They would go outside and they would sit along the wall and they'd be out there eating their lunches and I'd get done with my lunch and I'd come out and I can specifically remember two girls not wanting me to even look at them. "Don't even look at us when you walk by." So I didn't.

Davis:              Did you cry? Do you remember?

Johnson:         No, I don't remember crying. Maybe I did but I don't remember crying. What I do remember is then befriending what you would call the geeks or the ones that weren't as socially popular at that time, and I became a part of that friend group. I was a part of ... My best friend who was a part of this group after school, then we'd walk and we'd separate and then I'd become friends with this other group at school during the school day. These friendships have carried lifelong too. I'm still very close to these gals.

Davis:              Those are the geek ones?

Johnson:         What you would consider not as socially whatever, like they do in those ages. They are lifelong friends as well. The irony of this is that somehow, some way and I don't know how it happened but these girls ... Then I left. I wasn't treated well so then I left and went back to the reservation. Went to school there for another year, came back, went to the private school. Several years had passed and then I came back to this school in the 7th and 8th grade.

Davis:              Now this is Cathedral?

Johnson:         Yeah, Cathedral. When I came back that year and that was my best friend that convinced me to come back to Cathedral. She wanted me there now.

Davis:              The one that ...

Johnson:         Separated me when we were younger.

Davis:              Separated when you got to the school and walked away from you?

Johnson:         Yep. She wanted me there with her because we'd stayed friends all those years, and I wanted to go there too. I brought myself and a couple of other guys that were my good friends and are still my friends today, over with me. When I went I'll never forget it that they came running out. These same girls that sat along this wall, some of them, and hugged me and were just so happy to see me. I never, whatever, I never questioned it. I was in and that was it. I laid on that lawn and those girls were all hugging me and that was it. I was in. Whatever it was.

                        So some of these girls that sat here and treated me that way ... I even had another friend that had brought ... This really impacted me. I never forgot it so I'm going to mention it. It was around Easter time when they used to have those little Easter gums, little Easter egg gums. We went out on the playground and you were supposed to bring enough for everybody if you were going to have candy. To share you had to bring enough for everybody. This particular little gal didn't want to give me one.

Davis:              But gave everybody else one.

Johnson:         But gave everybody else one. I think that was the moment when my then best friend said, "That's enough." She knew that I didn't get a piece. Everybody else did but her, so she bit hers in half and she gave me half of hers. I never forgot that because that was a big deal. That was a big deal that she publicly said I'm done doing that to Kathy. You know what I mean? Those are some of the things that happened to me. They must have impacted me because I remember them vividly.

Davis:              Right. That's the power of love.

Johnson:         Yeah. That's kind of the school piece of it.

Davis:              Then you move on to a different part of your life.

Johnson:         Then I go through high school and I graduate without too much incident. I always had to just listen to people make racist comments. A lot of that happened in high school.

Davis:              In front of you?

Johnson:         Yeah, in front of me.

Davis:              Was it to offend you as well?

Johnson:         I don't think they cared. It didn't matter.

Davis:              It didn't matter.

Johnson:         It didn't matter if they offended me or not. The thing is that I regret, my regret there was that I wasn't strong enough to stand up and say stop. I didn't take that and educate people or take that opportunity to educate people or to let them know that yeah, it did offend me. I didn't do that. I just zipped my lips. Then I go to school and I become a professional. I've been the token Indian at the Capitol for meetings because they would use the native tribes for grant, for count, that kind of thing. I've been a part of all that. There have been times when I've stood up and said I'm not going to do that anymore. I'm not going to be a token Indian. I have physically done that at meetings.

Davis:              Explain what token Indian is, because the non-native community probably doesn't know what that means.

Johnson:         The example that I'll use with myself is that there was a grant. In that grant there was a requirement. They had probably used native numbers so they can say x amount of number of natives from North Dakota. The grant and the people that were in charge of that grant from out of state came in and they gathered all the state folks, which meant the tribes should have been there too, but they weren't. They had me there because they'd kind of gotten to know me through another venue, another way. They had me at that meeting and the grant folks stood up and they said, "Call us when you have everybody here." What they meant is they had a token there, but they didn't have a voice there.

                        Because an Indian is not an Indian is not an Indian. I can speak on behalf of myself and maybe my community. Things that are familiar to me that I know about, but I cannot speak about Fort Yates, Belcourt, or even the larger part of Fort Berthold quite possibly because we're a large reservation. We're spread out. That's what I mean about a token Indian. They felt like if they had one at the table, if they had Indian at the table we're good. They needed to understand that's not how it is. We have all different kind of communities just like they do. Just like Dickinson might be different from Bismarck, or Bismarck is very different from Richardton.

Davis:              All their townships, they're all different.

Johnson:         We're all different. We're all different, and so are the reservations and so are our communities. That kind of became important to me then after I realized, I was young, really young, and I sort of realized the dynamics and how things worked. I was starting to get stronger, so I was able to advocate. I was able to speak up and say, "I'm speaking for myself. I'm not speaking for all native people because I don't have that right. I can't because I don't know what's all going on." I think I helped just in this little particular circle. I helped them understand. I later became a state director of that program here in North Dakota. When I did that I understood all of the misunderstandings of all of the people from Fargo or Minot or some of the bigger cities. I supervised.

                        I was now in charge of those programs from the white community, from off reservation, and all the reservations. I think I spent a lot of my time doing my grant objectives, and a lot of my time bringing community together. That became really a part of my passion. What we did is we hosted a lot of meetings on all the reservations. A lot of these folks, I wanted them to visit. They had to drive there. They had to experience the drive. Meet the people of the community and get comfortable to try to wipe away anything that they might feel or think or stereotypes or whatever. I enjoyed that part of my life. I really did. Those were some really good days.

Davis:              You saw the value of that learning, that cultural learning between the two.

Johnson:         Absolutely. Of course it was early childhood so one of our best centers was right on Fort Berthold. We got to showcase our Fort Berthold and showcase our elders that were in the childcare setting, and just a whole different flavor from rigid textbook, this kind of thing. It was bringing them together. Textbook with kind of how we do things. It was really good. It was really good.

Davis:              It was helpful. That's great.

Johnson:         Then after that then I came here to United Tribes and I've been here ever since in enrollment services, and then in different capacities out here.

Davis:              What is it like for people out there who don't know United Tribes? What's the culture like? How is it different, because you have that perspective. You went to the public, the private, the tribal. You've been to all three. Then you've had that experience working as a state employee where there's a lack of native Americans working. Now you work at United Tribes over eleven years. What's it like?

Johnson:         I guess I continue to be amazed, amazed and baffled at how so many of our neighbors here just right outside the gates of United Tribes don't know what we do in here. What we do in here is amazing. We have seen up to 70 different tribes come here for schooling. Our numbers are not that high now, but at one time they were. This is such a rich community in so many ways. We're transforming lives all the time. There's such good work here, such passion. If you look at the longevity that we have with our employees. People come here and they stay because of the community. Both native and non-native. We've got a mix here. That's the biggest thing to me. I just cannot believe how many people don't get it.

                        I'm going to use the example of Aetna. I've been working with them on a volunteer basis. I want to say this is probably the fourth or fifth year they'll be out here this year. It was through a program where we were trying to educate the community. There was a couple of people here on campus that would connect with someone off campus. A group, an organization, or whatever. They'd bring them on campus. They brought like a bus load. Aetna did. They brought a significant amount of people up here. They did a tour and they had lunch with us. They got to ask questions. They're real big on volunteering and so they wanted to volunteer out here. They got hooked up with me because I oversaw the cafeteria at the time. A group of them come out and they help with our Buffalo Feed. We feed right around 3000 on the last Sunday of the pow-wow every year. They wanted to help with that. It has been just the most wonderful, fantastic relationship and it's grown. Every year they want to bring more and more people out.

Davis:              It continues today?

Johnson:         Yeah, yeah. They come out and they bring their families or whatever. In return they get a pow-wow pass. When they are all done serving and we clean up. It makes the work light. It makes it very organized. We need the help.  We need volunteers out here during the pow-wow. That's just been a huge success. When they are done they come over and they watch the grand entry or partake in the rest of the festivities and go shopping.

Davis:              Wow, that's great.

Johnson:         It's awesome.

Davis:              How many come out? How many employees is that?

Johnson:         I think last year they had I want to say 26.

Davis:              Really? And it's been going on for how many years?

Johnson:         I think this is going to be their fourth year, fourth or fifth year they've been coming. It's been going on for a while.

Davis:              Okay.

Johnson:         Another example I'll give is Starbucks. They didn't come out this last year but we reached out to them to come to the pow-wow to put up a stand, to have a coffee stand. Actually corporate is the one that had the interest in it. Corporate is a much different world than our local business. Corporate was yes. They were into it. They had called the Starbucks here in town and Starbucks was a little leery because they didn't know about United Tribes. What is that out there? To ease their pain or ease their fears or ease their curiosity we invited them out prior.

                        They came out and we did a tour and said here's what happens. They felt better about it. They still didn't understand what happened or what goes on that weekend. They came and they set up their stand. It was a little stand. I can remember the first morning it opened I thought I'm going over. I'm not going to go to Starbucks in town. I'm going to go to ours on campus. I went there and really because they didn't understand how many people come through our gates that weekend they had just brought coffee. Just a small coffee and some coffee cups.

Davis:              Oh, you’re kidding.

Johnson:         They just didn't get it, so boy they were scrambling to get more and more stuff. By the time the weekend was over those folks that were not sure where they were coming couldn't wait to come back next year.

Davis:              Really?

Johnson:         We're going to bring everything. We're going to set everything up. It was exciting to them. Actually what they did is they turned around and they gave all their profits back in the form of scholarships.

Davis:              Oh, that's great.

Johnson:         They came out and did some barista testing with us. They had a few events out here then after that. Those are the kinds of things that I would love to see cultivated. The relationship between United Tribes and the understanding of what we do out here, and the impact that we make, and just who we are within the Bismarck-Mandan and Lincoln community.

Davis:              Bridging those relationships and learning about one another.

Johnson:         Yep. In many different ways. We graduate students out of here. We actually transplant people here. They become lifelong people in their community because they work here. Whether they work here or they graduated from here. They bring their families. Maybe their extended families come.

Davis:              They advocate for United Tribes and so family members come. Children come when they become of age.

Johnson:         They come with all kinds of situations. They do.

Davis:              Earlier you and I were talking privately and you mentioned how you watched some come in a humble way. They're coming off the reservation and sometimes they don't have that self-esteem, but you've seen them transform.

Johnson:         Yeah.

Davis:              Over the years. Do you want to share that a little bit.

Johnson:         I could talk all day long and give scenarios. That's what makes me so passionate about this place and many of us that are out here is when students come in and they're ... Some of them, this might be their last stand. This might be their last straw. They come to United Tribes. They've gotten off the reservation. They've left home. They've left their families. We've even got situations where it is married couples but they can't bring their families because they can't afford it because of housing, whatever. Maybe they're leaving jobs. Maybe they're leaving homes. They are just taking a huge risk and they're coming here hoping for the next thing. Hoping for the next best thing.

                        I've watched so many students and families come here on their last leg and just become transformed and become these strong individuals. They leave and they go out to the workforce. They go on to other institutions of higher learning. There is just so many good stories, I don't know.

Davis:              That's what we kind of need to do is round up those stories because I think the community doesn't realize how much professional development comes out of here, and how much of that talent is really within our own community that they could be seeking out.

Johnson:         A lot of times when I'm up town and if I'm at a business there's a lot of misunderstanding yet up town. I'll just put it that way. I watch it all the time. It happens to me. It happens to all of us probably. Now that I'm older and I understand. I'll use an example. I was in Herberger's one day. It was a couple of years ago. One of our employees out here, I was a supervisor. He is dark. He is a native. He and his wife and his little kids and they were rocking in Herberger's and I just happened to be making a quick trip in and a quick trip out. I physically watched a lady, a worker, hide behind one of the clothes stands and she was peeking at them and just watching them.

                        Okay, what's going on here. I came up behind her, so I stood right behind her while she was peeking around. They were minding their own business. They had no idea they were being watched. Out the door they went, whatever. She turned around and she saw me and she was startled. I said, "What did you see?" I just couldn't help myself because I could not believe it. That was pretty much it. It didn't go any further. I just walked out then. Followed them out the door.

Davis:              We can laugh about it right now, but that really gives the idea of how ... What's the word we want to say?

Johnson:         How we're perceived.

Davis:              How we're perceived.

Johnson:         Just walking down the street.

Davis:              Yeah.

Johnson:         Shopping. Doing everyday things just like everybody else.

Davis:              The need for cultural education is critical in our community and today we see all this diversity, and so the Native American population isn't the only minority anymore. I think this is a good time for us to start educating our community, our city. Both cities, Mandan and Bismarck. I too had an experience at Herberger's as well. It was actually about a month ago. Treated very badly by a cashier. I shared it on Facebook because I have friends who are native and non-native, both. I don't believe in racism against the Caucasians, the non-native Americans, because I don't like to be racist against. I don't condone that behavior, but I shared that. It was so amazing to watch the Bismarck City Mayor who is a friend of mine who is on my Facebook, and who stepped up and said he did something about that. That is where we need that support from our leadership and it's happening. I'm very enthusiastic about what is coming in our city.

Johnson:         For me and my passion and where I'm at is I'm passionate about the job that I do every day here for the students, and on behalf of the students and that kind of thing. The other part of that is I really do have a passion for educating the Bismarck-Mandan and Lincoln community about United Tribes and our students and our staff, and what we do out here.

Davis:              Who we are.

Johnson:         Who we are. Who we are, because we are many things.

Davis:              Just because we're different doesn't mean we're bad. I agree. There's a sense of feeling shame of being native American, and that is just wrong in itself. There is a precedent there that instilled that within us. If you go to any other big city there is all kinds of minorities and so you don't feel ashamed as we do here. We've been the only minority for so many years, and I think it's time ...

Johnson:         We've got a bad rap.

Davis:              Yeah. I think it's time we walk with our heads up and start educating. We don't talk like you. We don't look like you.

Johnson:         Quite honestly a lot of times I don't think I'm Indian and you’re white. I just don't think that way until it's brought to me.

Davis:              Until you see some treating you that way.

Johnson:         Snaps up in my face like that, yeah.

Davis:              Then it's like oh, okay.

Johnson:         My children don't look native. My son and my daughter and they've experienced racism all through their schooling here in Bismarck. In one way or another being called names or having the racist jokes in front of their face even though they know they're native. All kinds of things. Not a lot has changed.

Davis:              Right. And I think it's important just to kind of leave with a message that we have a higher calling in how we respond. We can actually change and reverse that by not getting violent about it, by not reacting in a way that would contribute to the name savage. We have a responsibility of challenging ourselves to develop emotionally and to articulate to them how inappropriate that was, or just to stop and educate them. Like you did, for example. You didn't really educate her but there's a standard of no tolerance in a respectful way. I think we're ready for that. I think we're empowered. I think United Tribes is going to be a big part of bringing that platform to the cities.

Johnson:         I agree.

Davis:              As we build our Native American population to become cohesive United Tribes is a big part of that, but to bring it all together so that we have a platform to educate our cities here. Is there anything else you wanted to add in closing?

Johnson:         No. I just want to thank you for asking me to be a part of this. It's interesting to share when I have to reflect and think about my story from many years ago to now. Thank you for that.

Davis:              Thank you for sharing with us.



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