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May 22: Teachings of Our Elders - Dr. Wayne Fox on Laughter

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North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding number four is about sense of humor. It states "Native people have a rich history of shared sense of humor, that includes teaching stories involving Iktomi, Maymaygwisi and Nanabozhoo. These stories and this unique sense of humor continue to support our resiliency and cohesiveness."

In today's episode of Dakota Datebook, we'll hear Dr. Wayne Fox, enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation talk about learning with laughter.

Dr. Wayne Fox:

I have always made my class laugh with some of the things we said, and if I had maybe a student teacher that was from Dickinson or maybe somewhere, they'd be like, "What? You just said that Mr. Fox?" It was some of that humor that was there, and we did share a lot of some of those stories, but most of the time it was a lot of humor and a lot of teasing where the kids were able to tease me as well. And being that teacher, you have to understand it's not personal, that laughing. They needed that laugh too. Like, "Oh, well, all right, if that's what you think of me, okay, that's fine." But having that understanding and being able to laugh with them and also being able to laugh at them where they laughed at you, and the humor was always there in the classroom.

We would talk about stories, but we would just talk about just different types, little behaviors. Before you left on Friday, you'd have to dance out the door. Indian dance. And some of them were like, "Nah, I don't want to." But then toward the end of the year, boy, some of them were really dancing hard and they wouldn't even leave. They would dance around the classroom. But then it was that laugh and that humor where we wanted to end that day and then bring that day in on a Monday and leave it on a Friday, smiling.

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.