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Jerome Dancing Bull on River Bottom Days

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North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding number five is about tribal policies, treaties, and sovereignty. It states native people practice self-determination, developing tribal policies, and practicing political activism despite a history of US policies and treaties that have often been detrimental. Native people are members of sovereign nations that predate the US government.

In this episode of Dakota Datebook, we listen to Jerome Dancing Bull, enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation, talk about what was lost after river bottom days.

Jerome Dancing Bull:

Those are the days of my early days when all the men went to war and came back. When they went to war, they came back. The bottom was already flooded. See? My older brother is the last one to be born on the river bottom. I was born in '55 and they moved up in '52. But his generation is the only ones left that were born on the river bottom. We seemed to have forgotten how we were brought up. The respect of it was kind of getting lost. People were saying stuff to each other that they shouldn't have been said. And they didn't matter, didn't care about it no more.

You can see some of that today, but it's not as bad as when I was growing up. Where if you had a clan aunt or a clan uncle, respected them. But now it seems like you can argue with them, which you never did a long time ago. You gave your best stuff to your uncles and your aunts. I think a lot of it has to do with that. I'm not a politician and never will be, but I think a lot of it comes from that too. I really try my household to bring that back. I tell my kids and my grandkids in sweet respect to you, who to tease, who not to tease, stuff like that. We grew up on that.

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.