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February 1: Teachings of Our Elders - Kade Ferris on What Stories Teach Us (Part One)

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North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding, Number Two, is about learning and storytelling. It states, traditional teaching and the passing on of knowledge and wisdom was done through storytelling, song, ceremony, and daily way of life, often incorporating specific gender and age specific responsibilities. These continue to be some of the best modes for learning for both Native and non-Native learners.

In this episode of Dakota Datebook, we'll listen to Kade Ferris, enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa, in Part One of "What Stories Teach Us."

Kade Ferris:

How do those stories either teach us or instruct us... But what I found interesting just the other day was a story that didn't neither. Now, that's where you verge from myth and legend, which always has that teaching component, to what is this? It was a wendigo story. So there's this old man who's a LaRocque. It's a name from around Belcourt. This is a long time ago. But he was fishing, and he had set some nets out in the water. And he was busy on the shore, fixing another net, and he heard something splashing. So he turned and looked, and there was a weird woman grabbing fish out of his net and eating them raw.

And he grabbed his gun and shot her. And his wife came out of the lodge and she said, "You got to chop her up. She's a wendigo." And so he did. There's no moral to that story. It's just a story about that thing, that evil creature. And I was looking at that going, people are like, "This is a great story." I said, "Yeah, it is, but it's missing that." And so, it brings you to the point of is this a legend or is this an accounting of something real? Because there was no moral. And so I think that's the funny thing. When you look at history or look at any kind of story, is there's that story arc. But when those stories lack that, they still have value. They don't teach you anything, but they do. Because all of a sudden, you have this real event around a mythical creature.

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.