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Mark Bluestone on the Importance of Feeding People

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 listen to Mark Bluestone, enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation, discuss the importance of feeding people.

Mark Bluestone:

Now, those are other things that we emulate a lot of things from culture as well. I mean, when we do, we feed people. We are big on feeding at any event that we do. When we have staff kind of activities, we say prayers before we start our meal. There's a reason for that. It's what we do in our community. Now, it's a little bit different because of church and state separation when you're dealing with kids, but when we have staff in services, it's also a hierarchy even when they eat. In this community, veterans eat first. And there is a hierarchy. Our staff knows that. I mean, and we don't have to remind them, in this district, it's veterans, it's elders, it's community service people is our next set. And so we include our Legion Auxiliary people in there, but also our firefighters, our ambulance folks, they get to eat first.

And as far as I could tell, maybe there has been, but I haven't heard any complaints. We've been doing this for 10 years. It's interesting to watch that we provide our budget for food service, where whatever activity we have, we share food. Last night at parent-teacher conferences, we shared a meal. We had family math night a couple weeks at the elementary school, we had food there. That's just who we are. And then that thought process extends to everything that we try and do is at least culturally relevant for here. And we're hoping that as the kids learn those kind of things, that they understand that when they go other places and understand, "Oh, they're providing a meal, so, no veterans got to go first, Elders got to go first, then I'll get my chance to do that." And so we're emulating that on a regular basis.

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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