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August 7: Teachings of Our Elders - Violet Smith on Respecting All Things

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North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding number one is about sacred relatives. It states Native people practice a deep interconnectedness with the land, the resources, the water, all living things, and all human beings. Land stewardship, respect for all two-legged, four-legged, winged , crawlers and swimmers, and a strong belief in the sacredness of all human beings are key elements for our spirituality.

On today's Dakota Datebook, we'll learn about the importance of respect for all things from Spirit Lake Dakota Elder Violet Smith.

Violet Smith:

Well, the way I was brought up was my grandpa and my grandma would always talk with us, talk with their grandchildren. And the thing that they told us about is respect is the first thing that they ever talked about was to have respect. And so that's how we grew up in the family is our respect for everything. And so I always did have respect for, he said not just relatives, but everybody he would tell us. And so that's the way I was brought up with.

And they had a lot of respect for animals like the buffalo, the deer, the horses, and eagles I think it was. And those are the main things I think that they... So that's what they always told us and all other animals too. I can't think of right now. But yeah, he told us that it's good, some of the animals, he said, it's for our health to eat. He said, that will nourish our bodies and so we can live on and be around all this. So that's the way I was told about animals.

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.