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March 20: Teachings of Our Elders - Dr. Twyla Baker on Native Identity

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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.

On today's Dakota Datebook, we'll hear about the importance of developing understanding from Dr. Twyla Baker, enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa, Arikara Nation and president of Nueta Hidatsa, a Sanhish College.

Dr. Twyla Baker:

Some of the stuff coming up with the essential understandings, it's so heartening, it's a good step in the right direction to help us to understand each other as human beings. All of us understand each other as human beings and to recognize and to see that our knowledge systems, our way of thinking, our way of observing is just as valid. And in fact might be more so because of how long we've been here. We've been here for just so long. And to wrap that into a student's educational experience, I think it's critical you've got to reach them where they live. And giving a student, if they can see and hear in school what they're getting back at home, that's going to help them. And it'll probably, because I kind of had to piece it together, it wasn't there necessarily for me when I was coming up as a young person. We can hand that to kids earlier, then I think we are going to have greater success in rounding out these individuals and helping them to find out who they are and to help them find their paths.

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.