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November 13: Teachings of Our Elders - The Story of Reverend Edward Goodbird

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North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding number seven is about native identity. It states individual and communal identity is defined and supported by shared native languages, kinship systems, 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 listen to Kevin Finley, enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation, tell the story of Reverend Edward Goodbird.

Kevin Finley:

My great-great grandpa became the first ordained man but at the same time, he said, "I don't choose one religion over the other because I know who I am, but this is what I want to do." And as always, when you choose to do something, people will say things. People will be against it, and they'd say he wants to be like the white man. And I remember my grandpa Ben, telling me right up in the house, right up there, he said, "My dad, he did what he wanted to do." And so he said to me, "When you get older, you do what you want to do. Don't let anybody tell you who you're going to be or how you're going to do things." So now today I'm a minister and I just talked about in my last room in this past Sunday. I planned my whole life out. I wanted to be a basketball coach. I wanted to be a football coach. I wanted to be a teacher.

But I never had this in it. I never had the ministry in it. I moved back here in 2009 and 2010. Started helping out at the church. It just grew. The pastor said, "You really have a calling for this. You should really think about it." So I did. Took the classes and I thought, if it works, good. If it doesn't, that's okay too. So now, before I knew it, four years later, I had to finish all the classes, got my license, and this is where I am today with all those good teachers coming along the way. And my brother Charlie here and there's all... When I don't know something, I go to him. Because if I go to my mom, she's going to say, "You should know this already. That's just the way it is."

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.