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Teachings of Our Elders - Dr. Twyla Baker on Building a Better Society

Posted 8/30/23 (Wed)

North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding Number Seven 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 Dr. Twyla Baker, enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, talk about building a better society.

Dr. Twyla Baker:

I feel like with the essential understandings, we are attempting to build a better society, that we are trying to reach our full potential, who we could be as a people of the whole. And in order to do that, you have to understand who your neighbor is, and you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone, and you have to dispel the fear. There's just so much fear in our state, and that's not what I want for my state, because I love this place. I love ... My blood has loved this place before there was any type of state lines around it. I've loved this land forever. And we deserve more. Our children deserve better.

There's lots of differences, yes. But there's also a common thread of humanity. And if we can just start moving in that direction and acknowledging each other's differences and then celebrating them, the beauty of them, not so much the melting pot stuff, that's a whole 'nother story. But seeing each other for who we actually are and recognizing that, and there's a lot of power to be found in that. And our children will be so much better for it.

If you'd like to learn more about the North Dakota Native American essential understandings, and to listen to more Indigenous elder interviews, visit