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January 22: Teachings of Our Elders - Dan Jerome on the Importance of Knowing Who You Are (Part 2)

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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 listen to Dan Jerome, enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa in part two of The Importance of Knowing Who You Are.

Dan Jerome:

I think every person should definitely know who they are. They should know, and they should know the culture. They should know the history behind the many cultures we have. I mean, there's the Metis and that what I've been trying to do for the last 50 years, is trying to bring the communities closer together by a better relationship. But I always looked at it from the standpoint that it's not my problem. It's your problem. If you have any different feelings about me, it's your problem. It's not mine.

That's how I would tell the kids that. You just know who you are and you'll be... I think any time... This is a beautiful culture here if they get to know it. And anything you get to know, you get to enjoy what the Indian people is all about. And if they do that, if they can really know who they are, I think they're in good shape. And just tell them, "It's not your problem," I always tell people. And it is. It's their problem. It's not mine because I'm not the one being prejudiced, so to speak. That's what it is. And that's not my sin. That's your sin.

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.