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September 11: Teachings of Our Elders - Arlene Wadsworth on jokes in the Sioux language

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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 this episode of Dakota Datebook, we'll listen to Arlene Wadsworth, enrolled member of Spirit Lake Dakota Nation, talk about how jokes are funnier in Sioux.

Arlene Wadsworth:
Well, I talk Sioux, so we used to tell jokes in Sioux, and you translate it to English, they don't sound right, they're just flat. But tell something and too, you hear people laughing, then a lot of times, somebody that don't talk Sioux, they ask you, "Why are they laughing? It's not funny," but it's more humorous and funny if you tell it in Sioux.

Is there any certain word that kind of becomes that-

Arlene Wadsworth:
Oh, excuse me. I don't know it really happen or if that was just a [inaudible] that I heard this, they were having a wake, but a long time ago, there was a log cabin, a lot of them was this one room, so they were having a wake in this one log cabin, and there must been another one next to it where they did all the cooking and everything. And this one lady kept looking at the clock, and then this guy told her that that clock stopped and everybody jumped out and ran out, they thought that he meant the guy in the casket sat up, and it was the clock that stopped, "Oh, that clock, it stopped." “Nagi, that means up, so everybody ran out, they thought he meant the guy in the casket sat up.

That's good.

Arlene Wadsworth:
But you tell it in Sioux, it's funny.

That's great.

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.