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Dan Jerome on the Michif Language

North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding number seven is about Native identity. It states, "Individual and communal identity is defined and supported by shared Native languages, kinship systems, Tiospaye, clan structures, traditional teachings, values, sacred laws, and ceremonies. A continuum of tribal identity, unique to each individual, ranges from assimilated to traditional lifestyle. There is no generic American Indian."

In this episode of Dakota Datebook, we'll listen to Dan Jerome, enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa, talk about the Michif language.

Dan Jerome:

It's a jargon between the Cree language and the Ojibwa language and French and English, and it's all put together. I know when I tell my kids, say they have, there's a jargon, it has even English in there. "Ah, I've never seen it." So I ask them one time, "Look it." They have what they call a Michif dictionary and they go look in it.

I say, "Oh, look up the word broke and it says bustii in there. See?" See, that's the English part of it. But you find a lot of English in it. But you have to listen closely if you want to make out all the words.

Scott Simpson, Interviewer:

About your little sister in California.

Dan Jerome:

Oh, my sister went all the way to California. My younger sister, she's not with us anymore, but she was in California. And it was common in the house yet to use different things with the Michif language or the French language. And we used to say the word soochyem for one of the vegetables.

And here she was in California and she went to the big supermarket and wanted to get some. She said, "I just felt a hunger for soochyem. So she went in the store and she asks. She couldn't find any. She asked the attendant, "So do you have any soochyems around here?" And he said, "What?"

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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