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Catherine Howard on Humor

North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding number four is about sense of humor. It states, "Native people have a rich history of shared sense of humor. That includes teaching stories involving Iktomi, Maymaygwisi and Nanabozhoo. These stories and this unique sense of humor continue to support our resiliency and cohesiveness."

In today's episode of Dakota Datebook, we'll laugh along with Spirit Lake Dakota elder Catherine Howard as she tells us about rabbit and turtle, and frog and turtle.

Catherine Howard:

Many years ago, Mama used to... My mom told me. I think my mom and my auntie told me that. Anyway, there was a rabbit and a turtle. That rabbit was sleeping, and that turtle was coming by and they both start talking. And that turtle looked. That Rabbit asked the turtle, he said, "You want to race?" That turtle didn't pay attention to the rabbit. He was laying there with his eyes closed. "Come on," he said, "I'll have a race. We'll go across the road over there, see who's the first one gets there." That turtle kept on... Boy, that rabbit didn't want to go. "Alrighty, let's go, then," he said. Boy, they took off. Boy, he fast, that turtle. He went, and then a car came and ran over that rabbit. That turtle was going, "See? I told you, when you go fast, you know where you get yourself." I tell that to the kids and, "Oh, well, okay, I'm slowing down." "You want to get run over or what?" "No, well, no, I'll slow down."

So they go by that. I was telling phatkášana or maštíŋčana, "You want to be phatkášana or maštíŋča?" So they do their work and they go, "Okay, anybody want to be maštíŋčana?" Never hear anything. Phatkášana, they all put their hands up.

A turtle and a frog were sitting there visiting, talking about the weather. He said, "Look like it's going to be rain." He said, "Yeah. Thanhanshi, Cousin," he said, "It's going to rain." He said, "What should we do?" "Well, we better go in before we get wet." They both went in the water.

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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