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February 16: Teachings of Our Elders - Vincent Grant on How The Michif Came To Be

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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, 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 Vincent Grant, enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa, talk about how the Michif came to be.

Vincent Grant:

Some of the fur traders would get together to have 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 of them or whatever would get in a group and trap and hunt together. Some of them a little more, only one or two, they get smaller groups together and do their trapping and hunting like that. And some of the fur traders would actually get into some of these local areas where the natives were. And in order to get hunting and trapping privileges on their land, they would marry into the tribe. And it was not always a one-sided thing. A lot of the native women that were married to the fur trappers were treated very, very well. They'd buy them all kinds of gifts, clothing, cloth, whatever else, beads and whatever else, and they always took really good care of them. So, it was not kind of a one-sided thing. A lot of it went married into the tribes to get permission to trap that land and hunt that land.

So, it was kind of a two-way street there. And so, I think a lot of it's where a lot of our blood came from, from Northwest area turf fur trade and stuff. Now recently, I've got people telling me now that we're always saying, "Well, we're French Canadian." And a lot of them are saying, "We're going through that..." What's it called? Their DNA, they're checking that out. And they said, "We got more Scot blood in us than we do have French." We do have a lot of French blood, but we got Scot and everything else mixed in there too. So, that's kind of where this all came from.

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.