Sioux Valley Dakota Nation elder and knowledge keeper Eugene Ross showcases artifacts that represent the Dakota way of life. (Miranda Leybourne/ The Brandon Sun)

Sacred teachings, wisdom and prayers united a group of Dakota, Nakota and Lakota elders and knowledge keepers from their traditional territories in Canada and the United States at the Keystone Centre in Brandon on Tuesday and Wednesday.

They used the event, called “Oceti Sakowin icipes unkikcupte,” or “Taking Back the Seven Sacred Council Fires,” to explore traditional roles of men and women in Dakota, Nakota and Lakota culture, language, residential schools, genealogy, traditional lands research, connection to lands and more.

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation elder and knowledge keeper Eugene Ross went to the event to share the richness of Dakota culture through his large display of historical artifacts, including beaded baby bonnets, a feather headdress, traditional hunting and gathering tools and star blankets.

“Some of our own people are disconnected from who we are,” he said. “[I’m here] to re-educate people, to show them the importance of all this, to make a difference and also to plant the seed for the next generation to follow us, just like our old people that left that legacy behind for us to follow them.”

The vast display of culture and history Ross set up is also a testament to the fact that despite historical efforts by government and various Christian churches in Canada, Dakota culture is still alive and well.

“We’ve persevered, and we’ve overcome all these challenges that were placed in front of us,” he said.

It’s important for every Dakota person to reflect on the truth and beauty of their culture, and it’s up to elders and knowledge keepers to share their knowledge with their nation, Ross said. For this reason, land-based teaching is important in preserving the Dakota way of life.

“Listen to the elders because we are the keepers of the stories, the way things were done.”

It’s not just important for Indigenous people to be in tune with the way of life of the first people in Canada, but for all Canadians, Ross said. Approaching an elder with a traditional gift of tobacco is a respectful way to open a discussion with them and to learn from them, he added.

“Whatever you’re looking for at this time in your life and your journey of life right now … this is where you go. And if that person doesn’t have your answer, they’re going to ask you to go to someone else that has that knowledge.”

It all highlights the importance of sharing in the Dakota culture, Ross said.

Participants at the event, which was hosted by Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, were full of positive feedback about what they’d learned and experienced, said Chief Jennifer Bone.

Echoing Ross’ words about sharing, she said anyone with an interest in Dakota culture should reach out to her community.

“Call or visit … take part in an event,” she said. “There’s always an opportunity to learn something new and to meet somebody new and learn from one another.”

By Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jan 26, 2023 at 09:14

This item reprinted with permission from   Brandon Sun   Brandon, Manitoba

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