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Carol Davis tells the story of Red Leggings

North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding number six is about native contributions. It states, "Native people continue to contribute to all levels of society, from local to global, in diverse fields, including medicine, science, government, education, economics, art, music, and many more."

In this episode of Dakota Datebook, we'll listen to Carol Davis, enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa Nation, tell us the story of Red Leggings.

Carol Davis:

He started to tell me this really nice story. This lady's name was Red Leggings. She had a regular name. Her name was Elizabeth Delorme Russell. She ran a hospital right in Belcourt. She also had a hospital in Winnipeg. The cancer had to be like a lump, so it didn't sound like she did internal cancers. It was like if you had a cancer someplace on your body. And he said, "From what I understand, there was two processes. One of them, she made a poultice and she would put this on that cancer and it would be like fire. It was burning the person's body.

And then when the cancer died, then she had another poultice and she put the poultice on that cancer, and when it took hold, she would take it off and the cancer looked like a spider. He said it had long tentacles and it would just lift it right off. I was telling that story in Grand Forks one time and it hit the newspaper, and I got a call from Roger Jordane. He was a chairman at Red Lake at the time. He said, "Carol, do you speak the language?" I said, "No." He said, "Do you know the word for cancer in Ojibwe?" And I said, "No." He said, "The word for cancer is the same word as spider."

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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