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January 9: Teachings of our Elders - Kathryn Froelich on Tribal Policies

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North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding Number Five is about tribal policies, treaties and sovereignty. It states, "Native people practice self-determination, developing tribal policies and practicing political activism." Despite a history of US policies and treaties that have often been detrimental, native people are members of sovereign nations that predate the US government.

In this episode of Dakota Datebook, we'll hear Kathryn Froelich, elder and enrolled member of the Sanish, Arikara and Blackfeet tribes, talk about the importance of knowing the history and treaties that impact us as individuals.

Kathryn Froelich:

Even as an adult, I'm still learning. I'm still learning the different treaties and what they meant and how they impacted people. For example, how did we get a reservation that's divided in X number of fractionated shares? Especially today for our young people to know what that means, that yes, they do own land and they need to know what that means and how it can help them to understand, what does that mean?

And like on Fort Berthold, when I worked with the high school students at Fort Berthold, we talked a little bit about that and the importance of it and the importance of, unfortunately, leaving a will so that it doesn't get more fractionated. And that's how this all happened, was historically, tribal people didn't leave wills because they just assumed it was going to go to their... It wasn't a part of our life, all of this, this whole system.

And especially up in the oil country, where they're going to be getting fractionated shares of oil revenue, they need to know economically, how that can benefit them and how it benefits the tribe.

So I think it's really important that they know the difference between fee land and trust land, and how did that all come into play? And yeah, it's just, and that all came from treaties and all of that. So I think it's really important that they have a good understanding of that.

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 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.