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Getting Through Boarding School (Part One)

North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding Number Four is about sense of humor. It states "Native people have a rich history of shared sense of humor that includes teaching stories involving Iktomi, Maymaygwisi, and Nanabozhoo. These stories and this unique sense of humor continue to support our resiliency and cohesiveness."

In this episode of Dakota Datebook, we'll listen to Katherine Froelich, enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in Part One of "Getting Through Boarding School."

Katherine Froelich:

School, my mother tells of when she went to boarding school, she went to boarding school here. There's an all girl boarding school and she went to school when she was seven years old. They took all these girls at Fort Berthold and put them on a train in Garrison. And then they didn't speak any English.

And then they came to Bismarck. And then when they got off the train, they were handed government issue clothes and they didn't realize what was going on. And of course the history of not being able to speak their language and all this and that. But she said they had a matron, and the matrons were strict, of course. And she said there was one day that all these girls got together and they said, You know what? We're going to jump on the beds. And they said, Okay, that sounds like fun because all those beds were lined up in that room.

Let's jump on the beds. So they got in there and they jumping on the beds, jumping on the beds. And my mom said, all of a sudden the matron came in. "What are you doing?" And she corrected them. And now you have to go see the head matron, would have been the principal.

So she gathered all those girls out and they went down there. When they got down there, they seen a line of kids. They were lined up to go in to see that principal. And they thought Uh oh. One of them that came out, went up to my mother and the other girls with her and said, "You know what? You go in there, start crying right away, and then they won't spank you hard." So she said they went in there, and sure enough, my mom said, "We went in there and we started crying and crying. And they didn't even spank me." And then they let them go. So they learned. She tells that story and it is funny. It's kind of sad, but they found humor in it.

If you'd like to learn more about the North Dakota Native American essential understandings, and to listen to more Indigenous elder interviews, visit teachingsofourelders.org.

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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