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March 25: Teachings of Our Elders - Dr. Twyla Baker, "We Laugh So We Don't Cry" (Part Two)

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North Dakota Native American essential understanding number four is about sense of humor. It states, "Native people have a rich history of shared sense of humor. That includes teaching stories involving Iktomi, Maymaygwisi, and Nanabozhoo. These stories and this unique sense of humor continue to support our resiliency and cohesiveness."

In this episode of Dakota Datebook, we'll listen to Dr. Twyla Baker, enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara nation, in part two of "We Laugh So We Don't Cry."

Dr. Twyla Baker:

I think about some of my colleagues and my friends professionals who have to deal with a death or a loss or any other type of hardship. From one moment and the next moment, they're having to deal with budgets and they're having to deal with strategic plans, or they're having to deal with all this other stuff. They're just trying to live life while they're carrying this burden of grief. So, we like to joke. We like to laugh. We like to tease. And we'll try to lift some of that burden and help carry it for each other.

And I think about some of my other relatives who are incredibly funny and who have taken it to the next level. They've put it onto to social media. They start using native humor as a means to tell our story and to teach lessons, of course, still. And to just express themselves artistically, too. I mean, that's completely valid. The sense of humor, to me, it's second to none. I mean, we have a lot of inside jokes, too. And I think there's this sense sometimes... And I don't want to get too terribly pan-Indian or anything like that, but I've heard people say that for an outsider coming into the Indian community, if people are being terribly polite to you, then they probably don't like you. But if they're teasing you, then you've been accepted and they like you, because they know you can take it and you can probably tease back.

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.