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August 14: Teachings of Our Elders - Joseph White Mountain on Teaching Language

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North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding Number 7 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 Joseph White Mountain, enrolled member of the Standing Rock Nation, talk about the importance of teaching the language.

Joseph White Mountain:

I really actually didn't start school until I was about six. One day we was playing along the creek and my dad decided it's time for us to go to school so he took us to school. I couldn't speak a word of English. Fortunately, we had some other people that knew how to speak English and everything, so they kind of interpreted. We kind of used them as interpreters, you might say, for the ones that couldn't speak English because we grew up talking to Indian all the time so... But that was, one of my biggest regret is I never taught my kids how to talk Indian. My wife understands some, but she can't. She never speaks it either. But I got a little granddaughter now I'm trying to teach. She's six or seven years old now, and she really catches on good.

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.