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November 25: Teachings of our Elders - Kade Ferris on Learning and Storytelling

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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 hear Kade Ferris, enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, share a bit about a type of cultural reconciliation that happens when young people connect with the stories of their ancestors.

Kade Ferris:

Well, yeah, it's all about reconciliation, but not in the sense of reconciliation for comfort, like I said, of the colonial powers, but it's reconciliation for our benefit. It's being able to have our storytellers, our community leaders, our traditional people, and our youth, to take that power. I love when I see a young person step up and say, "I want to do this." And they do it. And people get out of the way and say, "Yeah, let this guy do this." This young artist that I know, who his been traveling all over, trying to learn new techniques. And he'll come to me and say, "I'm thinking about this new head dress. And I don't want people to laugh at me." I said, "Then you do it. You own it." When we worry about what people think, when we worry about the comfort of others, we start to lose our power to tell that story.

Anybody, I mean, from the youngest child to the oldest person, they have to have a voice. They have to feel that they can speak what's in them. So, that's what I've really been, personally myself, is trying to get those stories that I've been collecting from books from fur trade journals, from elders and collect them and get them into a method or into a vehicle of media that people can actually digest. People who could be 80 years old have seen those on Facebook and said, "I remember that." And then people who are young, saying, "I didn't know that." That's where we start to see healing. That's where we start to see growth, because now all of a sudden they own that story.

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.