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Dr. Twyla Baker, "To Us It Wasn't Discovered" (Part One)

North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding number six is about native contributions. It states, native people continue to contribute to all levels of society, from local to global in diverse fields, including medicine, science, government, education, economics, art, music, and many more.

In this episode of Dakota Datebook, we'll listen to Dr. Twyla Baker, enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, in Part One of “To Us It Wasn't Discovered.”

Dr. Twyla Baker:

I come from a STEM background, so it's science, technology, engineering, mathematics. And there's this tendency to believe that those types of things did not exist prior to colonization and of course, they existed here. I mean, we had our medicines, we had our technology, we had our architecture. We built earth lodges with no nails. We were inventors, we were artists, musicians, we were all of these things. And I think about the native contributions, gosh, and it's not just in recent memory or anything like that, but all of these medicines, all innovations with the natural world, democracy, all of this thought, all of this stuff was contributed by native people. And we did not get the acknowledgement that would've been given to a non-native person.

I tend to think of these places that got named the Mount McKinley or whatever, they all had names before. They had identifiers before. They were already named. We had a name for them. The fact that somebody comes and discovers a particular mountain or something and then puts his name on, it does not make that, all of a sudden, there's a mountain there. These things have been recognized and acknowledged for generations. So I think about all of that and how there's a resurgence and a reclamation of that, those identities.

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: Teachings of Our Elders is produced with support from and in collaboration with the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

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