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Kevin Finley on "A Time for Stories"

North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding, number two, is about learning and storytelling. It states: "Traditional teaching and the passing on of knowledge and wisdom was done through storytelling, song, ceremony, and daily way of life, often incorporating specific gender and age specific responsibilities." These continue to be some of the best modes for learning for both native and non-native learners.

In this episode of Dakota Datebook, we listen to Kevin Finley, enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation, talk about "A Time for Stories."

Kevin Finley:

There's a certain time during a season for different stories. But when I go back to my great great grandma, one of the things that I have a lot of pride in is that she sang and she talked to her corn like they were her kids. And people really believe that that's why their corn grew so well. Now, there was a winter when she made an abundance of corn and they didn't know why. And she really didn't know why, because she loved to garden? Who knows. But during that winter, a lot of the Sioux people passed away because they just relied on their rations of meat that they had from the summer. So after that spring when there were those deaths, they told her, "Widen your gardens, so we'll have more for the winter."

So they think that's one of the things that sustained them was that. And also, we go back to how our dogs... We see dogs here today. We don't really, it's just the dog. Well, back then, dogs were a means of everything. When they were going to hunt the next day, they would feed their dogs a lot the night before, so they wouldn't make a lot of noise and scare the game away. If you had, they called it a buffalo horse. If you had a buffalo horse that meant you were probably really rich, because that's rich, having a good horse. And if you could shoot an arrow through a buffalo, not just shoot it, but shoot it through it, you were revered as a very strong hunter, a strong man.

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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