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November 4: Teachings of our Elders - Dr. Wayne Fox on Sacred Relatives

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North Dakota Native American essential understanding number one is about sacred relatives. It states, "Native people practice a deep interconnectedness with the land, the resources, the water, all living things, and all human beings. Land stewardship, respect for all two-legged, four-legged, winged, crawlers, and swimmers, and a strong belief in the sacredness of all human beings are key elements for our spirituality."

In this first episode of our new Dakota Datebook series, "Teachings of our Elders," we'll hear Dr. Wayne Fox, educator and enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nation share a bit about helping students develop a deeper relationship with the land around them.

Dr. Wayne Fox:

"Making sure that these kids of who they are. And having that connectiveness to the four-legged, the two-legged. And being able to bring that into your lesson plans whether we're looking into science, and we stumble across maybe the buffalo, and talking about the buffalo. Having stories about the buffalo, and how important it was to our people, and then going and talking about bits and pieces of what pieces were used for. The horn was made as a cup. The horn was also made as a spoon. Some of the bones were made as maybe a rake, or tools, or as a scraper. The hide was made as clothes, or even getting into the spirituality piece of it, of using the hide to pray on, or using the skull in front of your altar.

And I think that was the most important piece to let these children know because, like I said, a lot of the children don't know. But if you put them out there and put that curiosity into their head they'll search it out, and they'll come back to you and they'll say, "Hey, Mr. Fox, this is what you were talking about, of having that relationship with the land, having that relationship with the rock." It's just not a rock. Actually, it's a grandfather. And having that respect for a bird and not being able to throw rocks at maybe even a frog, and talking, and connecting it back to that lesson. Just about different things. And I think that's the most important piece."

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 is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.