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January 30: Teachings of Our Elders - Carol Davis on Spirituality

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North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding number seven is about native identity. It states, "Individual and communal identity is defined and supported by shared native languages, kinship systems, Tiospaye, clan structures, traditional teachings, values, sacred laws, and ceremonies. A continuum of tribal identity, unique to each individual, ranges from assimilated to traditional lifestyle. There is no generic American Indian."

In this episode of Dakota Datebook, we'll hear Carol Davis, enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, share how she honors her traditional ways of practicing her spiritual way of life, as well as her Catholic upbringing.

Carol Davis:

Well, when I started to go to ceremonies, I had been Catholic. My parents had been Catholic. My grandparents were Catholic. I don't know what they were before, my grandparents, but I know my grandparents and my parents were both Catholic. So we just naturally, I guess that balance, natives always believe in something, and so we were nurturing our spiritual lives. But when I started to go to ceremony, I was still going to church, to the Catholic church. And so I thought, "Am I doing something wrong? What do I do about this?" I was getting really serious because I loved Sun Dance, and I loved sweat lodge, and at the same time, I loved going to church. On Sunday morning, I would go to church.

I thought, "This is getting serious, and I really need to talk to somebody." So I went and found one of our spiritual leaders and took tobacco. I said, "I have a very serious question," and I said, "It's going to make a difference in my life." And I said, "I want you to guide me." I said, "I do these ceremonies. I go to ceremony. Then I go to church on Sunday and practice the Catholic way. And then, I have a name. I've got my name in ceremony. My children have names. My grandchildren have names. I take them to ceremony." I said, "Am I doing something wrong?" And the spiritual leader said, "There is no wrong way to pray."

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.