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Friday, February 22, 2013

An Experience Of Traditional Lakota Storytelling


By Dakota, North Dakota Humanities Council
Fort Yates, ND - The Lakota people call the month of February Čhaŋnápĥopa Wi (The Moon of Popping Trees) or Thiyŏĥeyunka Wi (The Moon of Frost in The Lodge). These are names to articulate the coldest months of Waniyetu (Winter) when Makĥoče (Grandmother Earth) was at rest.

The needle dropped below zero and the only news the wind carried was that more cold was on the way. Over a hundred people gathered together over the course of two evenings at Sitting Bull College in Fort YatesND in the heart of winter, to hear a Lakota visitor, an elder from South Dakota, share the Lakota Creation Story and Lakota Star Knowledge.

The room was filled with the murmur of raucous laughter, playful teasing and the cries of hungry babies when an assuming man entered the room and quietly prepared at a table near the front of the room. His name, Rick Two Dogs.

Two Dogs, an Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Sioux Indian Reservation, began the first evening with a little exposition that the stories he was going to share were told in the lodges around the campfire long ago. These were the kind of stories that were shared by the Lala and Uŋči (Grandfathers and Grandmothers) and one can feel the weight of centuries and tradition echo in Two Dogs’ tranquil voice when he began the evening with a prayer of Whŏpila, Thanksgiving.

The attention and quiet in the room which followed was like the crack of a whip, sudden and sharp, and even the youngest of children quickly stood in quiet respect when prayer was invoked.

When the prayer concluded, a traditional horseman named Jon reiterated to the mass what many already know, that elders eat first, then visitors before the rest. Young women dashed off to the front of the line to prepare bowls of bapa soup, a traditional soup made with corn and jerked meat, wŏžapi, a type of pudding traditionally made with chokecherries but for these two evenings is made with blueberries, fresh fried bread and steaming black coffee for the elders. Everyone else formed a line and the jocular murmur of laughter and teasing among friends returned.

When hunger was satiated and thirst was slaked, Jon introduced Two Dogs in Lakota and English. Two Dogs isn’t just unassuming, he’s self-deprecating, and is quick to attribute or credit others for the stories he shared, his Lala especially, who witnessed the Battle of Little Bighorn when he was ten years old.

Two Dogs recalled his Lala fondly. He took his meals seated on the floor, speared his food with his knife and refused the aid of a fork. He would look askance at anyone who offered him a napkin, and wiped his hands on his braids. During the long winter nights, his Lala put a few sprigs of cedar on the wood-burning stove, the kerosene lamps were doused, and firelight lit the home.

When Two Dogs opened the floor to field questions, one man asked, “Why are these stories told only in the winter?” Two Dogs replied that he once asked the Lakota scholar Albert White Hat the same thing and was told that if the stories were told out of season, one would get a hairy butt crack, but quickly reminded the crowd too, that the stories were shared when the world was at rest.

The following night, Two Dogs and his wife asked everyone to imagine the room as though it were one great lodge with one entrance. They divided the room between the sexes with men on the left half of the lodge and the women on the right. Between the men and women they explained was a path, a path of wisdom. The men sat in descending order from eldest to youngest going left from the path, just as the women sat in descending age from eldest to youngest, only they sat in order right from the path. It was an exercise in tradition and order.

Two Dogs’ stories are the traditional stories of the people, and should best be listened to in person, on a cold winter night, after supper, in the natural dark.

Haŋhépi čhaŋečela héčhuŋpi (This was done only at night).

Waniyetu čhaŋečela héčhuŋpi (This was done only in the winter).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Punk Archaeology, An Un-Conference Experience


A photo of the evening crowd at the NDHC Punk Archaeology un-conference in downtown Fargo, North Dakota.

By Aaron L. Barth, The Edge Of The Village
Fargo, N.D. - On the evening of February 2nd, 2013, at Sidestreet Grille and Pub in downtown Fargo, North Dakota, the first global Punk Archaeology un-conference unfolded with song, bullhorn, academic rants and discussion, and more bullhorn and song. The event was simple enough: get a group of scholars together in a tavern, get an audio-video system and a pitcher or two of beer, and have these scholars openly talk about and consider why and how “punk” might be part and parcel to the disciplines of archaeology, history, and art history.

Scholars from North Dakota State University, the University of North Dakota, Concordia College, and Franklin and Marshall College (Pennsylvania) contributed to the discussion. Considering that a winter storm pummeled central and eastern North Dakota that night — that evening, the North Dakota Department of Transportation shut down I-94 between Bismarck and Dickinson — an approximate audience of 300-to-400 visitors to the 5-hour Punk Archaeology un-conference was considered more than a success. One noticeable difference of conferences compared to un-conferences, at least noted by University of North Dakota’s Bill Caraher, was that at punk archaeology un-conferences, scholars are introduced with a bullhorn, and then they are required to give their talks through the same PA that the punk bands play through.

Dr. Kostis Kourelis, punk archaeologist and art historian with Franklin and Marshall College (Pennsylvania), gives his thoughts on punk archaeology through a PA after being introduced with a bullhorn.

Dr. Kostis Kourelis, punk archaeologist and art historian with Franklin and Marshall College (Pennsylvania), gives his thoughts on punk archaeology through a PA after being introduced with a bullhorn.


In the weeks that led up to this event, a variety of Red River Valley media outlets contacted me, as they were understandably interested in what was meant by the phrase Punk Archaeology, and also what an “un-conference” entailed. Without me rehashing everything that was said, here are the hyperlinks to the media punk archaeology frenzy. Bob Harris of KFGO 790AM in Fargo-Moorhead interviewed me on the evening of January 21, 2013. The first segment of that interview is linked to here, and the second installment islinked to here. On January 23, Kris Kerzman put together a Punk Archaeology write-up for the The Arts Partnership blog here, Kayleigh Johnson ran a Punk Archaeology story in The High Plains Reader on January 31, 2013 linked to here, and The North Dakota Free Press covered it on February 1, 2013 hereThe Fargo Forum covered the story in two different instances, once in a January 23, 2013 blurb here, and John Lamb’s January 29, 2013 write-up of it here.  Steve Poitras asked me to chat about this event during his February 2nd, Saturday morning Fargo-Moorhead radio show on 101.9 FM from 7:30-to-8:15AM. So I did that too. This was what the official press covered, and it went over well.

Several additional sponsors of Punk Archaeology included Laughing Sun Brewing (Bismarck), Tom Isern’s Center for Heritage Renewal (NDSU), the Cyprus Research Fund (UND), and the Working Group in Digital and New Media at the University of North Dakota. In all, it was an event that brought together North Dakota State University, the University of North Dakota, and the North Dakota Humanities Council, among others.

In closing, here his Bill Caraher’s blog-spot recap of Punk Archaeology linked to here. It happened. And it was awesome. And there is light banter about doing it again.

Aaron L. Barth is a member of the ND Humanities Council Board, an archaeologist and a North Dakota historian. Visit his work online at: The Edge Of The Village.