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Kade Ferris on What Stories Teach Us (Part Two)

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'll listen to Kade Ferris, enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa, in part two of "What Stories Teach Us."

Kade Ferris:

We need to make sure that we don't clean up history too much, because there's that idea we have to sanitize things to make them more palatable and less painful. But really, we learn a lot about ourselves and about our history by looking at painful things. The [inaudible 00: Rebellion in Canada in 1885, there were war crimes committed. I found a story which horrified me. There is a general who when they defeated the Metis, he wrote an account about, "We won, the men fled and we took our war spoils. Every man who wanted a pony could have one, and they rode those ponies all night." He wasn't talking about ponies, he was talking about rape, and it was a euphemism. And I mentioned this on a story that I wrote about how there were war crimes committed, and people were like, "How can you say that?"

I'm like, "How can I not say that? If we don't bring that out, if we don't call that out, we're doing a disservice to those people who suffered. We're letting their memory be sanitized or whitewashed." But we can't do that because the more we know about that, the more we talk about that, then we can start to heal. But if we hide those types of things in our history, it does nobody any good. And so, I always have that moral dilemma. It's like, "How do you do that in a gentle manner as best you can?" But you have to do it because it's never clean. But also, I'm trying to get the public to see these things, too. So, you have to make sure that it's a publicly acceptable.

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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