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October 30: Teachings of Our Elders - Patricia Christensen on Traditional Foods (Part One)

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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 of our spirituality."

In this episode of Dakota Datebook, we'll listen to Patricia Christensen, enrolled member of the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation, in part one of her interview concerning traditional foods.

Patricia Christensen:

Right now I'm using sage for my respiratory. It's good for respiratory, it's good for a lot of things. Up at Sully’s Hill here, I used to train up there. All our medicines are up there, but we can't pick them because it's a state park.

But when I was at the college, I used to teach at the college our culture, I used to take students up there. There's a lot of our wild vegetables up there too. A lot of our wild fruits, and those are all up there. So I take the kids up there to look for these plants.

At the college we used to get, we call them thinpsinja, they're like rutabagas. We go and get them. The sacred hill up there, they called pahaya wakan. That was full of thinpsinja, and it still is. We get a lot of sage here. We got a lot of, down the park, we could just smell, it smells really good. Sweet grass, it's down there. And we got our sinkpe because sinkpe is like bitter root. That's the muskrat food. So that and the muskrats crossing path. So we have a lot of this stuff. I grew up with my grandparents, great grandparents telling me, my grandmother telling me, my grandfather papasol, all this stuff. There's a lot of different medicines here. There's quite a bit that I learned growing up.

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.