Back Row, L to R: Calvin Grinnell, Keith Bear, Troyd Geist, Alex DeCoteau, Debbie Gourneau;
Front Row L to R: Anna Littleghost, Lenore White Lightning, Monica Jerome (representing her father, Dan Jerome), Mary Louise Defender Wilson;
ND Heritage Center & State Museum, April 2023
Where do you go to relax or center yourself? Does a certain landscape speak to you?
For many Native Americans, the earth and everything in it are linked and possess a supernatural presence, but some places or elements of nature like specific buttes, streams, and rocks are considered especially powerful.
It is at these special places where the earth and sky converge with the natural and supernatural worlds. They are places one goes to fast, seek visions, and hold ceremonies; to interact with and receive guidance, knowledge, and assistance from the spirits and from the Creator.
Traditional Hidatsa storyteller Calvin Grinnell (Maarooga Diria–Running Elk) notes that these are often remote, quiet places of spiritual healing where “one can hear voices on the edge of the wind.” Places where answers can be found, and the lost can find themselves.
These stories—intimately tied to the land—convey morals and lessons connected to an ancestral and spiritual past. The messages are universally held to be true. Together the stories and land provide a means and a place to center oneself in the present. They guide and set a path for the children of the future.
NDCA folklorist Troyd Geist wanted to find a way to bring the stories together and share them with all people, thus 𝘖𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘌𝘥𝘨𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘞𝘪𝘯𝘥: 𝘕𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘚𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘳𝘴 & 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘢𝘯𝘥 was born. Through the exhibit, respected Native American storytellers and elders share traditional stories connected to this region. Some stories of certain Native American tribes can only be shared by elders who have been given the right to tell them. The featured storytellers have been granted the cultural right to convey these stories by the elders who taught them.
The largest exhibit produced by the NDCA in decades, 𝘖𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘌𝘥𝘨𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘞𝘪𝘯𝘥 includes very large images - high quality photos taken by Troyd Geist and Swiss photographer Barbara Hauser, and printed on aluminum sheets - of the storytellers and the land; touchscreen monitors to access the traditional stories and their cultural explanations; folk art related to the stories and land; and experiential components such as guided imagery listening stations.
Featured storytellers include Alvina Alberts (1912-1997), Dakotah; Keith Bear, Mandan/Hidatsa; Francis Cree (1920-2007), Ojibway/Cree/Assiniboine; Alex DeCoteau, Ojibway; Dakota Wind Goodhouse, Lakota; Debbie Gourneau, Ojibway; Calvin Grinnell, Hidatsa; Dan Jerome, Métis/Ojibway; Anna Littleghost, Lakota; Lenore White Lightning, Dakotah; Mary Louise Defender Wilson, Dakotah/Hidatsa; Courtney Yellow Fat, Hunkpapa Lakota; and Marvin Baldeagle Youngman, Ojibway.
For more information, including photos and a more detailed description of the exhibit, read the State Historical Society of ND blog post by Bree Hocking.
𝘖𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘌𝘥𝘨𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘞𝘪𝘯𝘥: 𝘕𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘚𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘳𝘴 & 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘢𝘯𝘥 is free to the public and is open from April 27, 2023 through April 2025.
NDCA wishes to acknowledge with deep gratitude the knowledge keepers who worked side by side with the NDCA for 10 years in the development of this exhibit! Your passion and dedication to educate others about the beauty and power of culture and land so intimately entwined has been the guiding force of this effort. You bravely opened your hearts to others so that they, too, may feel and see what you feel and see—the responsibility to respect and protect the culture and land.
Thank you to all who made this possible!