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Catherine Howard on Sharing and Generosity

North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding number three is about sharing and generosity. It states, "Native people have rich traditions of sharing and generosity, which include gifting, shared meals, powwow gatherings, shared living spaces, and care for relatives, including the environment, natural resources, and waters."

In this episode of Dakota Datebook, we'll hear Catherine Howard, elder, educator, and enrolled member of the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation, talk about the importance of generosity among the Dakota people.

Catherine Howard:

My mom always she say, "You got that Indian name and you always share that with somebody. When somebody needs help, you go help. You do this and don't ask for no pay." So when somebody passes away, I make about 50 to 75 or maybe 100 pieces of fry bread and bring it to them because that's what you call sharing. Then I have elderlies that are living on the reservation. I do that in loving of the elderlies. I cook soup, I make fry bread, and I feed the elderlies. Then on November 11, I feed all the [inaudible] on the reservation because my dad was a World War I veteran.

Sharing and [inaudible], you rarely seldom see that. If I'm at the casino and if I win something, let's say I won ... If I see a elderly man or a elderly woman, I go share it. I give, "Here, win on this." Or I always tell them, "Double it up." If there's old packs of cigarettes for a dollar, I always buy about five of them. If you see somebody needs a cigarette, give him one of those packs. Somebody walking on the road, I give them a ride.

The Dakotas were like that a long time ago. They shared. They shared everything and they never ... If they only had bread and water and somebody comes to visit you, set the table, my girl, feed him. If that's only water and bread, they will feed each other. They're not scared to share.

But that circle of life is broken from that. Some of us don't do it. Some of us [inaudible] we have, we think that we shouldn't, but we should. But I still live that life. I smudge my house every day.

If you'd like to learn more about the North Dakota Native American essential understandings, and to listen to more Indigenous elder interviews, visit

Dakota Datebook: Teachings of Our Elders is produced with support from and in collaboration with the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

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