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Carol Two Eagle, Linguist Part 1

3/31/2004:

Our story today is about Carol Two Eagle, known by many names including Wise Spirit.

Two Eagle overcame a traumatic childhood, and when asked where she grew up, she either says in hell or in a foxhole. She emerged as a strong-willed person who does all she can to guide and protect others, both human and not. As a frequent lobbyist at the state legislature, she is an outspoken advocate for human rights, walking her spiritual path with both humor and ferocity.

Two Eagle lives outside of Mandan, where she runs LeatheRestoration Service. She says that her birth month is “Wasuto Wi” or the Moon When Things Ripen. The majority culture calls it August.” Her heritage is Polish and Dakota, and as a child, she learned both languages at the same time she was learning English. Her parents wanted Carol to embrace only the white side of her heritage, but she says that she always knew she was Indian – it was something she knew from the inside; it wasn’t a part of herself that she could deny, and her refusal to “be white” became a constant source of conflict between her and her parents from early childhood.

Two Eagle was also blocked by her elders. “They didn’t want me to learn my languages (Dakota or Polish) on the grounds that it was ‘because we love you,’” she says. “People (meaning whites) will think less of you if you speak either of these languages. We see no reason to give them more ammunition to use against you or any of us.’ Thus,” she says, “when I was very young, they knew that I understood my languages, but when I began to speak, they quit speaking in front of me, thinking that then I would not continue. This attitude was legion among adults at that time.

“I pestered my grandmother Pearl,” she continues, “because while she was no soft touch, she would usually listen to a well-reasoned argument. Eventually, I did persuade her to teach me, but she insisted on its being done in secret, particularly from the rest of the family, because they would hound her to stop if they figured it out.”

Carol described her grandmother, saying, “Pearl was about 5' 5" tall; had black hair which she wore curled ‘in a bush of hair’ as she called it. She had a face like a Madonna; she was absolutely beautiful. She was built ‘like a bureau with the top drawer open’ – very busty, no waist, hips, or butt. She looked ever so innocent,” Carol continues, “but she wasn’t. She told me, ‘I raised hell every day, somehow, every day of my life. I had a great time, even when it was really tough.’

In describing Pearl, Carol says, “She had polio when she was 6 and was told she would never walk, but she ignored that and learned to walk with braces. When she was 14, one day she said she ‘just had enough of that bunk’ and she threw the crutches and braces away. She walked with a cane for 3-4 more days and then she threw them away and since she had made up her mind to walk, she did. She swam for years, and she could dance the polka forever. She could run like a deer on what she called, her ‘stick legs’. No one ever dared to call her crippled or handicapped twice; and they never forgot the foolishness of calling her either of those once.”

Carol finishes with, “(Pearl) had spirit to burn. If she liked you, she would move mountains on your behalf. If she didn't like you – if you cheated her or hers – she would make you regret it no matter how long it took. She had a memory like an eagle’s. They don’t forget an-y-thing. She was fiery, determined, a great cook, and a terrific human being.”

Tune in tomorrow for more on Carol Two Eagle, who went on to learn a total of nine languages.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm