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Dan Jerome on the Importance of Knowing Who You Are

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 Chippewa, in part one of the importance of knowing who you are.

Dan Jerome:

In the community you have a spectrum of identity here. In other words, some of them are quarter, some of them are full blood. There's very few full blood now in the community, probably a three quarter, but they're from those that can claim that their Indian descent from a quarter to three quarters. But when I grew up, you'd go to Raleigh and I'd be with my dad sometimes walking the street. Nobody would greet him. No one. And unless the businessman, because he wanted business, of course. Or you'd go over there, over to Dunseith, then it was a little bit different and you weren't considered a...

There were more people with Indian descent over there, more Indian blood in them. So they didn't claim you were somewhat in the middle. See? So you were somewhat of two worlds going to the stores over at Raleigh. For example, my mom was used to go shopping. And you always find somebody following you, one of the clerks, following you up those stores because they were afraid she was going to take something. And I know she was accused of it one, one time.

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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