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TellTale: Dakota Folklife and Stories

Enjoy a glimpse into the folklife – and the heart - of North Dakota! TellTale: Dakota Folklife and Stories is a collection of narratives describing the shared personal experiences and lore of life on the North Dakota plains. From stories of blizzards, to the man who climbed atop a windmill to play his accordion, to the fate of Poker Jim – they originate from, and are shaped by, interviews with senior citizens, many of whom are from elder care facilities. As a special part of the Art for Life Program, which seeks to improve the emotional and physical health of elders through intensive art and artist interaction, these small group interviews take place around shared experiences, culture, and beliefs. The storytelling process of the elders is designed to address loneliness, social isolation, memory loss, and sense of worth. Other interviews were collected from participants of the agency’s Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program as well as traditionalists identified through fieldwork. From Germans from Russia folk singers and American Indian storytellers. Watch for new additions! TellTale is produced in partnership with Dakota Legacy, elder care and service organizations statewide, and North Dakota Council on the Arts (NDCA). This effort is supported in part by a grant from NDCA, which receives funding from the state legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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  • Folk songs sung in the Germans-from-Russia dialect continues in the heart and mind of traditionalists like 94-year old John Gross, patriarch of the Young…
  • Elders from central North Dakota reminisce about staying warm and having fun during the harsh cold winters of their childhoods.
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  • Blizzard stories with their themes of danger and beauty, such as this one experienced around Grassy Butte, North Dakota, are a staple of lore on the…
  • Elders in McKenzie County, North Dakota remember regional folk legend “Poker Jim,” an itinerant cowboy and card-playing enthusiast in this dramatic yet…