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July 2: Teachings of Our Elders - Identity Crisis

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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 Dennis Fox, Jr. Enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation, discuss identity crisis.

Dennis Fox, Jr:

When I came back to the reservation, like Charlie said, I grew up in Aberdeen, South Dakota. My parents worked for the BIA. I was in Pine Ridge. I did some ranching. I came back here, worked for the newspaper, and then I went to DC and I worked for the Smithsonian for quite a while and did some work for the University of Maryland and then came back here not knowing what I was going to do, and saw the Earthlodge in disrepair and started working on the Earthlodge and trying to repair it.

Some people noticed and I had an opportunity to work with Youthbuild Program for troubled young people and helped them, whatever was troubling them at that time of young adulthood, get them to be a contributing community member. What we found within that young person coming is that they suffered from an identity crisis. They didn't know where they fit. They didn't really know who they were to fit. They would come in acting like they were in the rap sort of movement and dressing with baggy pants or cussing every other word. And that they've had a problem with the identity of who they were and where they're coming from. And what we tried to teach them is their history and what it meant to be, who they were and how to participate in the community as a tribal member.

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.