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April 17: Teachings of Our Elders - Patricia Christensen on Hopes for the Future

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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 hopes for the future from Spirit Lake Elder Patricia Christensen.

Patricia Christensen:

What I'd like to see is have our language revised and keep going. I don't want our young people to lose that. Right now, I am trying to get our young people to learn it. It's hard because they didn't grow up with it. They didn't grow up with it at all, this generation now. My age, yes, we grew up with that all the time. Some didn't. Some didn't. Some my age don't even know it and so it's really hard. They never taught their kids because they don't know. It's hard right now to get them, but that's what I'd like to see. I'd like to see that. I'd like to see our whole reservation unite with each us and get this going. It could be done if they tried. That's what I'd like to see before I die.

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.