Man in traditional American Indian Dress Dancing.


2020 Digital Indian Arts Podcasts

Fort Union Trading Post

Podcasts celebrating the the past, present, and future of Indian Arts Showcase.


Interview with Marc Bluestone, Sr.


Hello everyone. I’m Leif Halvorson, summer seasonal ranger at Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site. The following podcast is an interview that was conducted online, which will explain some of the electronic and digitized chirps and clicks that you’ll hear from time to time, with one of our participants from our annual Indian Arts Showcase. Leif: Why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself? Give us your name your tribal affiliation where you're from and what keeps you active in understanding your culture? Marc: Okay, my name is Marc Bluestone, Senior. My Indian names are [gu cow ish] which interpreted the interpretation is “hear him coming” and my other Indian name is [pey toe how], which is “firekeeper.” I'm an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara Nations. I'm also a through my mother, also part Seneca and Cayuga. So I'm what's known as a Heinz 57 Indian, meaning, I have a lot of different Indian bloodlines. But I am an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, the M.H.A. nation. I'm also a member of our the Hidatsa Clan the [ma ho ka be] or Alkali Lodge. And really what keeps me connected as is this thought process of who I am and who I want to be at all times and trying to understand more about our culture and our way of life to ensure that trying to do things so that it will exist, you know a hundred years from now Leif: right

Marc: I'm trying to educate those around us to ensure that that gets done on a regular basis including special in my own family. I am a military veteran or a you know, I was in the North Dakota Army National Guard. I am part of our Legion Post here, which is very active as well. And so I think that's also important. I have come from the family of a lot of veterans even in my own personal life and my children, I have a son that's in the United States Army now who's a captain in the Army and he’ll be being a career man. I have another son who was a veteran of the Air Force and another son who's a veteran of the Navy and so then, you know recognizing military and it's contributions is very important to my own personal life because I have had my sons have gone to war and you know, you understand that the commitment that they have put their lives on the line. Leif: right Marc: For the service of our country is an to me an amazing thing and one of the areas that we need to let those who do not forget that it was the it was people like my own children who have moved forward to service our country and then then you know so that we can you know, do all the great things that we have now, you know, but I do belong to the American Legion Post 271 out of Mandaree, North Dakota. Leif: Marc you kind of described as you were talking about your tribal affiliation is kind of a Heinz 57 scenario. I've got a similar type of a thing Norwegian, English, German, Italian, we've got some Scotch Irish, we joke about the Irish Canadian aspect. What are some of the important connections with culture that needs to be shown to non-natives like myself. I have no tribal background whatsoever. And what do you hope is being known of Native American people through events like Fort unions Indian Art Showcase? Marc: You know going back to that. I think it's important to note that that we have a responsibility as Indian people to provide that information to have provide accurate cultural information on who we are and where we came from and where we're going in order for us to not be a relic but to be alive and and it's our responsibility to actually do that. And so like in our school district for instance all of our teachers that are hired as a first-year teacher have to take a M.H.A. Nation book study and we're fortunate we have some really good good written literature about who we are and I think that's one of the things that I think other tribes including us, we still have to improve on that all the time because times change. Leif: right Marc: yet more contemporary. But you know to have a if we want to tell her own story our own people have to write those stories because when other people write them, they're not necessarily going to be in their own cultural lens. They might not understand things but we do have we're fortunate. We have quite a few books that are prevalent to who we are and know that we have a book and it's called it's actually pronounced. It's actually pronounced [muh hquee dee we uh], or Buffalo Bird woman. Leif: Yes Marc: but on the paper it says Waheenee. So anyway, they don’t name [muh hquee dee we uh] they say Waheenee, and I understand that because from a, what they’ve learned in school is to read and write phonetically through the English language. So you make comparisons. But, uh, you know, that’s one of those extremely hard things to do, to try and figure out how to write a language that’s never been written, you know, we struggle with that. But, uh, ultimately our goal is to teach who we are and where we came from and so in our school district, we have a mandatory book study for all of our new staff all of our new teachers have to come in. They read to the history and culture of the Mandan and Hidatsa and Arikara or [staw nish] resource guide that was published by the Department of Public Instruction about 15 years ago, maybe a little bit longer. They read a book called “Our Churches and Our Story” which is a book from about the Congressional missions work on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation from like 1876 the 2011 that was written by a tribal member named Juanita Hellfree, they also read “An Indian Winter” of course that is the Lewis and Clark when they came and stayed in 2004 with Fort Mandan. They also have to read the book A “Knife River Indian Village” because Knife River Indian Village is a is a very cultural landmark that you can still go to Leif: Right Marc: and get information from it a national site. Then they read small books like “The Mouse Raid”, “Buffalo Bird Girl” which is a take on [wa hee dee wer] Waheenee, uh, that's been written by SD Nelson. That's just a recent children's book that's been adapted from that book. “Coyote Chief and the two Blind Men” and then “Old Man Coyote Races Buffalo” and that was a series of books that were put out both in the native language. Hidatsa and Mandan but also in English and that was language project that was sponsored by the University of Mary back in the 80s. But our whole goal is to understand that our people need to our teachers when they come to our district. They're coming to work with kids that are on the Fort Berthold Indian reservation. And so they should know something about the history and culture kids of the majority of the kids that they're going to work with. So it's a mandatory thing. In fact, I have told you there four new teachers that are in there, there was not a single teacher in our school district over the last six years that have not participated in those books study, and it does give them at least an opportunity to at least understand who we are and I think that's very important, you know, and so that's our responsibility as a school district. Other people, you know may not feel that way. You know, I think that you know, I'm nearing retirement from the school district as superintendent. My last day of January 20th, but we have a new superintendent being and you know that's actually being trained now and she's kind of taking over things as we go, but I really hope that they don't get away from this book study because Leif: right Marc: we do have a follow-up. We do have a follow-up books have a follow-up session where we kind of put wrap that all together with the things that they read the historical significance of what they read bringing up to the contemporary age and then talk about, you know, some of the things that just that were interesting information that they learned about Indian people. In fact, it's not a “getcha” kind of thing. It's more of a “what did you learn” kind of thing about the final project is to write down fifteen unique things that they learn from all these books. And then we do a secondary thing is we actually take them out to the make them walk the Four Bears Bridge, because there's a set of medallions on there Leif: yeah Marc: and they have to do a word find document of the written explanations of all of those medallions that are on the bridge so that also provides additional information. And then many of them will also read by I will get an opportunity to watch the movie “Water Buster” and usually when they watch “Water Buster” I’m actually there to talk to them about the significance of how it changed, you know, how it changed and impacted our lives. If you walk through our school district, you'll see lots of pictures and designs. In fact, we're doing another project this year that's over by the Hidatsa classroom and the Arikira classroom and the Native Studies classroom, which kind of has Earth Lodge Villages of [in plain view] But if you walk through our school district, you'll see multiple different designs of American Indians, specifically about the Three Affiliated Tribes mainly,f because we are here this is our reservation. And this is why we're learning about them. And those are the kids that they're going to live with it. Hey, you know the big picture wise I think it is our responsibility to to teach what is important about us as a people. No, I you know, I still go back to that [muh hquee dee we uh] Waheenee is probably the coolest book ever if you want to learn about Hidatsa people. Leif: I'm actually currently going through that right now. Mar: Are you? Oh cool. Leif: I am, yeah. Marc: Yeah, we have a lot of staff members that get hired as classified teacher aids, in whatever capacity, actually, and secretaries have to read that book, and the follow up book Goodbird’s [suh ga ga suh gee] uh, his story afterwards. And, you know, there’s stuff in there about how in the clanship system, how do you become a clan member? How do you interact with and recognize clan members and clan relatives? How do, how do you get a name? You know, how did you earn your name? How did I get [goo cow ish]? [Goo cow ish] is actually what’s my father's name. And when he passed away they pass that name onto me. [Pay too on hall] which is a Lakota name, which I was adopted into a family down in in Eagle Butte, South Dakota and they had named me that because I was a great, back during that time frame, I was getting well known as a teacher and educator and had just won a couple of awards for being a good teacher and a good educator which which was many many many many years ago which makes me laugh. But the uh, that thought process is that it was you know, that's how they gave me that name “The Fire Keeper” was to be the person who ensured that the knowledge base was kind of moved on. You know Leif: Right Mar: That was a very important name in that respect. But I always kind of go back to know as we do what we do even in our school district, you know, we're kind of the leaders on the reservation for, other than the college which has its own Native Studies Department. I mean, we require our our elementary kids to take Hidatsa as a language. We also require our middle school kids to take a native studies class. We don't require any high school kids to take Native Studies classes, but we have Tribal government offered, Hidatsa 1, Hidtasa 2, Arikara 1, Arikira 2, ah to these tribal government Native Studies tribal culture and all of those classes. So we actually employ four certified licensed teachers that teach language and culture in our school district and I'm actually licensed to teach native language and culture as well. So we do a lot of we do American Indian Lit class, American Indian crafts, American Indian art. Classes besides and American Indian fiction. And so we're constantly ensuring that opportunities are available to our children to learn and I know any kid that goes to our Alternative Program usually has to take tribal studies class and a American Indian Lit class which I supervise. But I'm very big on understanding. You know, we're 90% American Indian in the school district. Therefore a lot of the opportunities should be there for kids to participate in and I will continue to hope that when I'm retired that those opportunities are still there because there is a place for that. Leif: Right. Marc: things are not being taught in families like they should because the knowledge base isn't there. So we're giving opportunities to do that. Now. We do a kind of a very unique project here. We actually do meat boiling. They use meat boiling for the funerals and different community events and wakes and memorials and we bought a whole we teach kids how and we probably we probably cook 50 beef a year for different families for those activities and we show kids and we start from scratch from setting up the old way of cooking it, and it's and that's been around for a lot of years at least since you know least since the 70s and before then I can’t speak for that before then, but I know that's how they prepare them in the boiling meat. It’s kind of an archaic system of whether it will be here in 10 years or not is that it will be interesting. It's really been impacted by the covid-19 because the covid-19 has had a great influence because of how it's impacting people social gatherings. Leif: Right. Marc: So we are actually do our classes actually cook the meat our staff some of our staff, our exchanged teachers have to help learn how to do that. We have 35 teachers from the Philippines that teach in our school district and they have learned a lot about our way of life and our culture and our history all of those kind of things and so that's important as well. You know from a standpoint of its and I think it's also important for places like like for Union which sponsors the Indian Expo art showcase every year, course covid-19 little different

Leif: Right. Marc: but it gives an opportunity to create that bridge, you know, we're you know, one of the biggest things when we provide dancing performances and things, I always talk about that bridge from the past to today as part of our modern day culture, but it's not, you know, it's not everything that we do. I mean, that's one of the things I always tell people. We don't dress like this every day. We're not in regalia and you know, that's just as for special things but it is an important thing about dancing. It is a unique part of our culture and I think it also comes down to our celebrations here at Fort Berthold are really interesting because they are called celebrations not powwows. Meaning that it's not just the dance that goes on, you know, the singing and dancing is one part of that, but also throughout that process you have family reunions going on. You have naming ceremonies. Thats another cool thing about the [muh hquee dee we uh] Waheenee book that they you know, they describe a chapter of how a person obtains an Indian name. That’s still practiced today. The clanship is still practiced today. And so I think that's why I think that the book is so really really a great book about who we are as Hidatsa people. But you know as you were talking, back to the the dances, the dance is it's not just the dancing part, which is a unique part of it. It's really cool. It's fun to watch but now also on the celebrations you got family reunions going on you have naming ceremonies you have the clan adoptions you have different recognition. Sometimes we get a bad rap because we do a lot of giveaways and giveaways are strange for non- Indians because normally when you have a gift giving thing, it's more like a gift, you know, you're the person getting the gifts. If you’re honored, being the honored person you're getting gifts. For this case, you're giving gifts out to the people and you start with your clanship, your clan aunts and your clan uncles and then you work your way through. But you don't really give to blood relatives, you know. So you are looking at people who have helped you at some point and provided blankets to them for that. So we still have all the giveaways that go on and I think that's why they're called celebrations and they're not just called powwows. Leif: Right. Marc: because all that stuff is in there. You know, we've probably performed at Fort Union, you know, I'd probably say 15 times, you know over the last 20 years or so, at least I've danced there and brought kids to dance there over at least 15 times over the last 20 some years, and I still believe that that is an opportunity to discuss. You know, how all this transpired the dances have evolved. The songs have evolved. And I also talked about you know, some of our kids, you know, well this kids, you know, you know dancing and last year, you know, one of the last time we performed there we had a silver medalist in Junior boxing that was with us. We had you know, the just finished being a state champion cross country runner during for the Youth in, not the High School Activities Association, but during the Hershey meets. And you know, we have a lot of different things going we can talk about. These kids play football they do well academically. One of the things about us taking the Eagle Feather Indian Club around is you can’t come with me unless you're passing all your classes. And you can't and you can’t be getting in trouble either because I think that promotes that I can say, Okay. Well you see these kids grow up to us and their culture but this girl over here is a, you know, a silver medalist, you know nationally under, you know with her age group in boxing. And you know, and I think that that is you know, amazing. Silver gloves champion or runner-up anyway, and I think that shows something else that that you know, we also are human beings that try to excel and other things, you know. They do work hard in school. They're on the honor roll. They you know, they belong to different clubs and different events. So they're no different than anyone else in that respect. Leif: Right. Marc: Now, our kids are all addicted cellphones, anyways, the internet. Leif: Yeah Marc: Facebook and Twitter and everything else. So it's just amazing to me all of that. So but that's all the stuff like to kind of point out while we're doing the dancing. We talk about this just one way to continue to promote who we are and where we came from. And by no means am I an expert on any of this stuff, you know, and I'm not an expert. I'm still learning. I just happen to have the ability to talk, you know, and and so a lot of times just being able to share that information it does share. I know a couple of years ago when I actually danced and one of the persons that was in the crowd was a school board member for Minot public schools who I'd been on travel with to a national conference with he was you know, very happy to see me in a different realm you know. I'm here and my dance regalia but I'm also a school superintendent. And I think that that was, you know, very eye-opening for him that you know, I'm more than just a school superintendent from Newtown, you know. Leif: Right. Mar: You got to see all this stuff and learn about different things and that that in itself was a huge win. You know any time somebody walks away with a little more knowledge base, you know when they walk away from presentations and I think that's that's also important. But like I said, and I tell people all the time. I'm no expert in anything. I just happen to be in a position where I feel as a school superintendent and have the ability to make those decisions based on the approval of the school board to ensure that tribal history is taught, and Hidatsa language and Arikara languages taught. All of those kind of things are very important to me as a school district. And you know, we were the first ones who started teaching a language classes for high school credit. I wrote I actually was fortunate enough to write all the course code manuals for the state of North Dakota Leif: Wow! Marc: at one point. And so, and so, that which allowed to open the door so that so that we can teach tribal history for a high school graduation credit, tribal government, tribal studies, tribal culture, then native language classes. I was right there. I wrote them. You know, when I was fortunate enough that they listen to me at the time so, you know, those are very important things about understanding who we are and where we came from to be part of that. And I know we have several events throughout the year that are very important for our school district. We have an annual veterans get together in November that's second to none. And our school district provides gifts to them. Last year I think we gave them shirts that say “Newtown Public Schools supports our veterans” and it has all the, our local posts on the back of it and “we thank you for your service.” And then we feed them. The kids also give them a little, you know, a little thank-you cards and things like that. We also provide boiling beef and we might give a little bit of pocket money, you know, great and that that I think is really really important to do as well. And that's Something that I hope they can do you know that I hope is also continued, you know, because I don't know where I'm going to be out in five years, but I know it won't be so I'm going to be probably out doing a lot of those kind of things. But but at least you know, at least we will be you know, we have, they have an opportunity to maintain, and continue to teach and learn and do all those kind of things, you know. Leif: Right. Marc: So if we set that up correctly. Leif: I'm not sure how long you've been superintendent there Mark, but over a decade ago, I was still in college. I was at Dickinson State. And one of the things that was taking place in Newtown, along with all of this, I mean you really give your students and your staff as much cultural opportunities as possible. Newtown would let one of the classes from Dickinson State come and spend time observing in the classrooms there. I and my brother and our friend Jerry we ended up in Kathy Brenna's classroom, music teachers, so we got to spend a couple days working with the students there. I got the opportunity to go through the library and was just amazed at the amount of native culture references that you guys have in your library there and it's probably even better now than what it was when I was there. Like I say this was this was over to a decade ago, but for a guy like me to have an opportunity to visit a school system like Newtown and to be able to walk away from that, for me personally as a teacher, that was very beneficial. So Thank you to you and your school system for enabling kind of these outreach type of opportunities like that that give us a glimpse into what you're doing with your culture and how you're doing that with your students and giving us an opportunity to learn as well. So thank you for that. Marc: Oh, no problem. Yeah we, I think it's important to know that we even you know, we do a lot of different presentations and we try and, know, be available as a staff to you know, our culture and language staff. We have a, you know, cultural icon. Iris Obes who works for us as a language teacher and culture teacher at the elementary school. And she she's in her 70s and she still teaching she still, you know, promoting language and culture and that was her first language. And it's pretty awesome to see but she's asked to speak at a lot and she's a cultural legend. Charlie Moran who is our, you know, a well-known announcer on the powwow trail, and he works for us as well. And so he promotes the school district extremely well and various things area. But we will routinely, you know have, don't, you know, we don't do it a lot because we don't want kids to miss school during the school day, Leif: Right. Marc: You know, we're still all about, you know, trying to prepare our kids to be tomorrow's leaders and to be proficient and do well in the classroom. And so we try and not let them go too often, but we will even do some presentations during the day send out things. We had a kind of an exchange with Plaza School District two years ago. Where we send a teacher and some kids over there and then they came over here and had the opportunity to see, You know. Hey, we're no different than anyone walking down the street. We just have a little bit of knowledge base. You know, I always kind of laugh about it because I think you know what sets us apart is native people and its really an individual kind of thing, you know, you can you can be a hundred percent full blood but not know anything about who you are and where you came from. Leif: Right. Marc: Or you can be 1/8 and and you know, of course in our tribe, be a quarter, but you can be 1/8 and be a cultural expert and that's also a good thing, you know. So I don't get too hung up on person comes in and says well, I'm American Indian descent and I don't, you know, “How much blood degree are you?” You know what, you know, I don't I don't get on this thing about how many questions you have. I just say that's cool. You know. I hope you learn about who you are and where you came from. Because that's some very important things, you know about our lifestyle and I know as I was saying earlier about our American Legion Post 271, Myron B. Johnson/ Nathan Good Iron Post, you know, we work closely. They come and do four or five of those cultural presentations too where they'll visit the classrooms. Our our commander Bill [digitized] Jr. He's our commander of our post, and he will come in and talk to our kids on a regular basis about, he used to be a veteran affairs officer. He's kind of retired now, but he would come in then he would talk about, you know, “Everybody should go to the military.” You know, there are there are some really good things. If you don’t have a thought process of you don't know what your career is going to be, feel free to join the military service for three years, you know. That was one method. And we try and bring some service kids when they come back and try and bring them come and talk to classrooms and things like that. But you know, there are other, of course, Legion Posts. They just happen they get promoted a little bit more because I happen to be a post member, my children were all members of the post as well. So don't get me wrong. There. Are there other posts that are out there and when we do flag we do a flag-raising every year during that time frame and all we got basically everybody from every post to come in and help with flag raising and you do it, you know, we do one at the elementary school, on at the middle school, then we have high school and then we hope they come and visit so they can get gifts from us later. You know. I said, I think it is our responsibility, for their information that we think are critical about learning about or wanting people to know about who the Mandan, Hidtasa, Arikira people are, or more importantly the [new i duh] Hidatsa [sah nish] people are, and that goes for any tribe, then they should actively go about promoting that information to people so that they know “this is who we are and this is what we want you to know about us.” I know, we're getting kind of I think about, you know, Garrison Dam, back in 1950, you know the early 50s and how Leif: Right. Marc: that changed significantly Fort Berthold, you know. Our kids today, they don't know anything about that and you know, they don't understand historic trauma, you know, it's getting guarded, you know as time and gets different as time goes by but I think it's important not to forget that, you know, that these things kind of occurred because it sometimes history repeats itself. Leif: Right.

Marc: And so when history repeats itself, you have to be prepared to, say, if you lose part of your land through eminent domain and they want to do something I, I’m just stunned at some of the thought processes of how, and it wasn't just all Indian people, but we you know, It was primarily a lot of Indian people around here on the reservation that had to be relocated because of the building of the Garrison Dam and Lake Sacagawea being created, flooding the Missouri River and taking away our bottomlands and things. That didn't impact me as a 56 year old man. I don't remember that. You know that was before my time, but you can be sure my grandparents remember did and they were moved from great farmland and told to go in and forced to relocate to another area, which is our homestead outside of Partial, about twelve miles, on to ranch land. Well, you can't grow crops on ranchland. Leif: You can't it doesn't work that way. Mar: It is a huge difference. Exactly. And we learned the hard way. They learn the hard way on that kind of stuff and that impacted a lot and a lot of our people. And it's split up, you know getting that you know where you can have your social dynamics because it take a few hours to go see you know, or, you know was only 10 miles to go see them this direction. Well, now there's a lake there. You can't get across it. Leif: Right. Marc: So when they took out the original bridge, I mean, there's a lots of things. But, eminent domain is a very interesting thing, you know, because you think of that whole DAPL thing, whether you agree or don't agree about what happened at Standing Rock with DAPL, you know that original plan to put that pipeline was going to be north of Bismarck. And you know that city mayor and the governor and those folks didn't want their water that came straight down into their, into Bismarck to be impacted. So would they do? They built the DAPL, you know the line there they said we're not going to have it up here, ain't no way in hell. So no, but you know, yeah go and put it down closer to the Indian people because they don't have to, we don’t have to worry about what they think, you know, and I think that and I say that a little harshly based on there's more to that story, you know. But that is a great example of history repeating itself of you know, we you know, we had no choice but to sign a document saying that the dam was going to be created. Even though even in spite of what little people very little people know that the tribe had its own study and provided a study on where a dam could be build that would have been less devastating to our people and been just as effective. I mean very few people know about that. And that's and so but that's another one of those kind of things. If you let history you're not careful about understanding history, you know, it'll repeat itself. Leif: Right. Marc: And that's why I think it's important. And so, you know, but once again it also comes back to us educating. You know, it's our, it's, I mean if you want to educate somebody who who's clearly I mean, I always think about Sacagawae. Sacagawea is a great and wonderful story about people. But man, I've heard so many people say Sakajawea. Leif: [laughs] Marc: Sackagagagagaagga….and, I mean, so many ways at saying Sacagawea. And you know, in spite of my own good judgement, I will always go up to a person when I hear them say it wrong, and say I just want you to know that you would say Sacagawea, not Sakajawea whatever else you want to say it. Leif: Right. Marc: Because, because it means “bird woman” and the Hidatsa language which is my language or language of my people. And I think if you're going to promote the greatness of what Sacagawea did then you might want to say her name correctly. Leif: Right. Marc: so that you know what, it does kill people. I know I know even saying I have a hard time even with [muh hquee dee we uh] which is Waheenee, or Buffalo Bird Woman, and I find myself saying more I get frustrated and all of a sudden older I get the more I start saying Waheenee versus [muh hquee dee we uh] but I promote that book like crazy, you know. Leif: Right. Marc: Which I think is funny, you know, in that respect, you know. And, uh, but, like I said, we’re fortunate that our tribes do have some interesting and decent literature out about who we are, and some teaching that you know “People of the Upper Missouri” which is a video that we have out and have some good information on learning. “Water Buster.” The movie has some good interesting information on learning and things like that. But you know and so we try and teach all of that as a school district to our staff and to our kids. And you know there are also people who don't want to know this kind of stuff even from our own people. I think that's pretty frustrating is when you got people who are not interested in all and who their culture as they just want you to know, they're Indian and they benefit from being Indian in some respects. I think it's criminal behavior myself if you don't know about that, you know about your people and that's how I kind of interpreted anyway. But like I said, and so let's make no mistake about it. You know, I am not a cultural expert on anything. I just am fortunate to know a lot of little tidbits of a lot of information. I happen to be in a position where I can actually help promote that stuff, you know. Leif: Yeah. Marc: So that's why I think I'm not an expert on anything. I enjoy doing the presentations of our Native American dancing, you know. I will say that even Knife River has a, even your area at Fort Union, you know has one as a a great culture icon himself there, you know. Leif: Yes, we do. Yeah. Marc: We can talk about Loren Yellowbird, you know, and he doesn't like to promote himself, and that kind of stuff, but being a Navy veteran himself, knowing a lot about coming from a big family, and understanding how Garrison Dam impacted that, and the idea of just being able to teach, being fairly decent with the Sanish language and knowing about the Sanish and Hidatsa culture, I think that’s also awesome too. And sometimes, I do, I'm impressed with the fact that promoting, you know important, you know contributors, you know to our to our stuff, you know, and I hope at some point and I don't mean it, don't take this the wrong way, and I hope nobody takes us to wrong way. I hope that you know when I'm finally officially retired and you know kind of doing my own thing away from education, I will hope of I will hope they will remember about whatever a legacy I could have had. I tried to promote who we are and where we came from as a Indian people and not just my own tribes, but other tribes as well to you know ensure that that that stuff is not forgotten. Leif: Right. Marc: That it's live and real. And that's why those presentations I will always talk about those kids being, hey, you know, that's a silver medal with some boxing. That's a basketball player. You know, that is this kids on the honor roll, you know. Because we have some great great success stories of our children and of our students and how well they do and they move on you know. And then so I think that's important to promote as well. So if I have done any kind of legacy here a New Town Schools, I hope that's kind of what they remember the most. This is my 15th year starting and superintendent and I won't lie to you about a week ago and hit me that this is it. You know, I'm done I chose to retire. My wife retired this past year. So from education, of the school superintendent. I'm so this is real now. It hit me about it, a week ago. You know like, oh my gosh, this is it. And the count and the countdown hasn't really begun but in but there is a clock that's saying oh my gosh, you know and start thinking what do you have to make sure happens before you decide to move on, you know. And I will say that I've been fortunate that this school board is saying that they want they are trying to keep me as a part-time person to help run the culture classes and things for a couple of years, but you can't do that forever either, you know. Leif: No. Marc: And I think that's got to have a younger people and even if I walked out I know that the teachers that we have in place is, Mrs. Obes is up in age, even way older than me. She will, you know at some point Mrs. Obes will retire and then we're gonna have to find somebody, you know, that's going to transition into that position. But I will say that being able to be part of the Eagle Feather Indian Club for instance for a lot of years, this is probably my last year of doing that to be able to do performances and presentations and brighten up people's lives a little bit and sharing native culture. But it's you know, I said as I always say in those presentation, this is just a snapshot now and this is not who we are all the way through. This is just one small part of our culture and I think I will miss that. But at the same time I can't work 60 hours a week either and to be you know to be as a school superintendent much longer because I've been doing it for so long that it's it's really taught me. It was great. I took a week off. I really literally took a week off and put you know, I still had some phone calls from work, but I went to we went to Glacier National Park and were at the KOA and all my kids all there's 25 of us all my kids and grandkids and my wife and I and my mother was there. And it was amazing because there was hardly any internet or cell phone service. Leif: [laughs] Marc: That was really hard for me. In fact it was pretty scary. But we you know, we ate together as a family we cook together as a family and in spite of us sometimes not getting along as a family, you know, I was fortunate enough to name two of my to my grandkids that have native Indian names. And since I have worked my way of getting that that ability to do that, you know cultural act. And I have the right to do that now. And so anyway that was cool to you know, knowing that I promoted, you know that I have two grandkids now that were named, and named others, but you know, but I had to be done. We were working towards getting it done and I was the perfect time to do it. So but then taking a week off was not only difficult from a work standpoint. So it's not like said that the clock is ticking and so I'm hoping that you know when I do walk and I'm finished that things can maintain and those relationships and things and things that we've started won't leave what we're doing. You know. Leif: Right. Marc: I hope I don't know who will do the Indian showcase after I'm finished, you know, maybe even I’ll come out of retirement once in a while, but Lauren's good man. He's got a lot of good contacts. So he'll be able to figure some of that. Seeing is believing, you know, even walking through our school district and seeing the different activities going on, you know, it's always a good thing. But it's also all about, we do have to get our kids to be successful in the classroom as well. Leif: Right. Marc: You know, I push education. I've been fortunate that my spouse and I have six kids and that which you know, they're all contributing members of society. They all kind of know who they are and where they came from. All have Indian names and contribute to that all done well academically, so that's another part of the I you know, I kind of I kind of always spout off about you know, I think another thing about promoting who we are should be doing well academically. That should be something promoted as well. Leif: Right. Marc: We're always talking about sports and all basketball this and all good athletes this, you know, well, that's good. Some of that's good. But I have yet to see other than a little stepping stone of being a Allstate basketball player that will actually get you to be a great productive member of our society. Leif: Right.

Marc: You know, or whatever sport, you know wrestling. I coach wrestling for 18 years and I've yet to see what, working hard academically and doing well in school and pushing yourself to do well. And it does wonders. Leif: It does.

Marc: And that's a one day thing. That's how you create tomorrow's leaders is, yeah sports is important, activities are important, but you also got to push your kids in the right way to ensure that the you know, you have to learn to read and write and be productive in class and be able to speak and be able to write and you know so that you can be successful and I think about my last after many many many many years having kids in school, that we have six kids, and the runt of our litter just graduated 4 years ago is the valedictorian of our school district. You know, and they were a straight-A student High School, and was involved in a lot of activities and I was amazed that, you know went to NDSU this past year and he does an elementary degree in a family's consumer family's health services. Whatever that other degree is, I’m not sure. Anyways, in four years he graduated from college and he was on the honor roll every semester. He had to B's the whole time that he was at NDSU in Fargo for his two degrees. And what it what I'm getting at is you can go to a reservation school like Newtown and that we get a bad rap at times that you know, we don't prepare them academically, but how can a kid who graduated from here? He didn't miss a Beat. You know, he went on to NDSU got his four-year degree. Well my three of my other kids have like I was like six or seven degrees between five of them you know, of the six, he didn't miss a beat. So you can get educated Newtown and you get a great great education and you can move on and get a great education be successful in another college. Now the next part of course being a earner to be productive to society, you know, and that's our next Leif: Yeah. Marc: really our next thing because, gotta be taxpayers, man. I gotta hope that they’re gonna pay taxes so that if I get into the right kind of nursing home later you know. Leif: [laughs] Marc: [laughs] Leif: I talk with my students about how you know, the decisions that that we make today affects the decisions that we make tomorrow. And I've said we kind of treat this whole 18 year old thing is like this magical age. And I wish that I could tell you that when you're 18, you can make these good decisions. You can take care of yourself. You can be responsible. But the truth of the matter is there's nothing magical about that age and to be able to do that is you need to decide today that type of young man or woman you're going be when you are on your own. But unless you make those decisions now a series of small ones that affect them that are pointing you towards that, that's just not going to be the case for you. And not that you can't still achieve good things, even after that, it just might be a rougher patch for a while. As you are having to really double down to figure those things out. So it's really to your benefit today make those wise decisions today because if you do today, it's going to be easier tomorrow. It's going to be easier than day after that. But if you put it off today, if you put it off tomorrow, you're probably going to put it off again later. So make those decisions now to do those things so that when the time comes you're ready. Otherwise, you're just not going to be as well prepared for that. Marc: Absolutely. And I think that's we all have a responsibility and ensuring that our kids do well as part of that and it starts when they're little. Start promoting when it starts when they’re two three years old when you're talking to them and reading to them and promoting books and things like. You know, so I just think that that you know, educators, you know that have children should know the should have a really good standpoint that their kids should do well. Leif: Right. Marc: So how can you not promote education at home when you were an educator, you know? Leif: Yeah.

Marc: And that's what I did and that's why I said my kids weren't any smarter than the rest, you know kids. I don't want time some parent came to talk to my wife and ha ha welcome all four of your kids in high school are all on the honor roll and a honor roll and stuff and and all she said was you know, there's no secret. We tell them they have to be and they rise to the occasion. Leif: That's right. Yep. Marc: You know, and that was what we did. So that's that's the important thing as we go, you know, and I said, I'm very proud of where we've gone and what we're going to be doing is families of in my own personal family and stuff. So, I'm just like you said, it's been an interesting been a good run. But all things must come to an end as well, and that's we'll see how it all plays out in the end. You know, you guys want to finish strong for the rest of the year and kind of go from there and then we'll kind of see how things play later, you know. Leif: Right. Marc: Hopefully it all works out in the end. Other than that, I'm pretty happy about, you know, glad we were able to work on things and and I'm fortunate enough to be able to work, you know with different agencies to put on some performances and presentations and just, like I said, but I'm not an expert at anything and I think that's the funny part. Leif: We're both prepping for school starting in this fall. And this is this is a unique situation. I had the great opportunity last week. I got to talk to Thearsha McGillis. She's of the turtle Mountain band of Chippewa and she was talking about how, you know, COVID was rough, but I graduated high school, you know, and that’s a big thing. And I get to go to college this fall. So, you know, still have those dreams, still focus, and do something with your life, is what she said as just some encouragement for people her age. You and I are both full grown adults, you're nearing retirement here. And we're looking at the beginning of this school year. What kind of words of encouragement do you have for parents and teachers as we're moving forward into this the start of this school year with just what the current situation is. Marc: I think the most important piece of this is called patience. Is that realizing that things change and we have to be resilient and understanding that, you know things that might be happening today could be significantly different two to three weeks from now. Our school district is going to start with distance learning for a month, in fact every school on the Fort Berthold Indian reservation is going to start with distance learning. And I think it's so important that you remain the lines of communication between the parents and the kids and the teachers. And administrators so that that is an active process. Now is not the time to sit back and say well, you know not to take not to take charge of your own learning. You know, I mean, you have to be fully involved and follow schedules and try and stay on track, because, eventually the doors will open. Leif: Right. Marc: And the kids will come back and as long as they stayed on track they will be better. But we realize that you know, we want the kids in the school. We don't want to be doing the distance learning. Leif: Right. Yeah. Marc: We’d prefer to have them here because we want to see him face-to-face. Unfortunately, we can't do that right now. And so the thought process comes down real simple. Understanding this is just a short time that we have to deal with this and the big picture and realize that you need to work hard extremely hard and continue to promote that in order to take control of your education to stay, you know, work with our school district to be a team. In educating the child and I think that's a very important. And I learned, our family learned, just like anybody else's, you know, we had a had a granddaughter who was really got tired of doing school at the end of the school year at last year. She would be you know, seven o'clock. We'd be helping her and trying to get our homework done and it wasn't all that fun. Leif: Right. Marc: You have two superintendents and one social studies teacher, and that's the mom of that child, and it was it was sometimes frustrating for a second grader. But you know, we want kids to come back to school and we want our staff to be where we want to be that wonderful caring environment safe place to be when the time is the allows us to be that. But right now, because you know, Fort Berthold, we have a lot of intergenerational families, you know. So a lot of family kids live with their grandparents parents live in the home, you know, and so, you know, the kids are going to get sick and some of the younger adults will get sick and they'll get through it. You know that's been proven through and all the research right now. Leif: Right. Marc: But boy, if you’ve got underlying conditions and you're an elder that may not be you might not be so successful in that, so Leif: Right. Marc: That's why we're doing what we're doing here. We're starting out looking at data and hopefully the data will change and at some point that that immunization you say, I would say, you know, just work with the school work. Work with the teachers work with the staff. And do your best because you still want to continue to do your best right now. So that's kind of where I, at least I think anyway, should happen with everybody. So I was you know, I've talked to about a hundred parents over the last couple days about our distance learning plan and basically saying just be patient with us, you know, we're not out we want to get through this together, but we want to get through safely. So then know your kids going to return to an environment that's safe and secure and healthy. You know. Leif: Right. Marc: But I will say that it will be very interesting watching the superintendent drive a bus and using this little temperature. Dr. Talbots infrared thermometer as I’m putting a thermometers on kids and staff as they walked through the door. I think that's crazy. But it is our current reality. Leif: Yes. Marc: I think the one thing that this whole process has done and is reinforced the how powerful online learning can be. Or Zooming and my technology can be, the technology in the past has always just been a, it's a tool. It’s a tool and some people use it very well some not so well. This kind of all forced us to bring our knowledge base up and how to do this platform of a meeting. Leif: Yeah. Marc: So doing a face to face interview. I mean, we're doing this successful. Leif: That's right. Marc: And we’re using the technology that's currently available. And you know, this is one of those things I think it's going to continue to happen. It’s not going to go away now. I think we're going to have to expand our our skills and families are going to pick and choose some of these things. Oh, no, I kind of want to do online learning more. I want to do distance learning. I like that learning better, you know, and we have to adjust we have to grow so it is unprecedented and in the whole big fear, I mean, it was like one of those whole shifts of education. And education, No Child Left Behind, you know, Leif: Right. Marc: It was one of our last big shifts that occurred and now this distance learning and dealing with pandemic and covid-19 is really created a new shift for us, a new time in education. And I will say that some of our younger people just coming out of college who are “vidiots” already stand a better chance of learning at some of the stuff that could be more successful than some of us that are near retirement and going OMG. This is not easy. Leif: [laughs] Marc: [laughs] I just think about that, you know, I was just thinking the other day thinking, oh my gosh, I’m tired of meetings, online meetings, but then you know, how great it is to be doing an online meeting, and me not having to drive back from Fort Union today Leif: Right. Marc: or you having to drive back to Fort Union. We accomplished the same goal. Leif: We did. Marc: So that’s cool, you know. It’s pretty neat I think. We will definitely find that out anyway. Leif: Yeah. Marc: But we’ll be ready, we're actually going to be working on our restart plan and you know on Monday and Tuesday. We've kind of got the that at all filtered out. School board said go ahead and go with the one month and then we can kind of go from there, anyway. Leif: Well, thank you so much for letting me interview you today. I appreciate that a lot. It means a lot for our site here at Fort Union and coming from the purview of a teacher, anyway, thanks for all the hard work and effort that you're doing for your district for your students everything that you guys are doing. And I really wish you the best of luck as we were going through this transitional period and look forward to when we could all get back to more of the way it used to be. So thank you so much Marc. Really appreciate it. Marc: Well, thank you, and I hope you have a safe year and good luck with your you're teaching as you're getting into this new normal that we have so good luck, you know, and thank you so much for the opportunity to visit.

Listen in as Marc Bluestone, Sr. explains how important it is for native peoples to understand their culture. In doing so, everyone around them are more to understand as well.

Interview with Thearsha McGillis


Hello everyone. I’m Leif Halvorson, summer seasonal ranger at Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site. The following podcast is an interview that was conducted online, which will explain some of the electronic and digitized chirps and clicks that you’ll hear from time to time, with one of our participants from our annual Indian Arts Showcase.

Leif: Typically this weekend is when we would be hosting our annual Indian art showcase here at Fort Union, but just due to the way that things are right now that's not possible. But we're very honored to be able to talk to some folks that have been involved with Indian art showcase and give some different perspectives on that. How about you introduce yourself? Go ahead and give us your name what your tribal affiliation is where you're from and what brings your interest into understanding your culture. Thearsha: Hello. My name is Thearsha McGillis. I am enrolled in the Turtle Mountain band of Chippewa. I'm living in Trenton North Dakota and my knowing about the culture and what interested me was how the younger generation has stopped learning about our culture and I wanted to keep that going. So doing that, I started dancing when I was in about 2012. That's when I got my Indian name, which is Crow Hawk Woman, and that way I can introduce myself and talk to kids who are younger than me, and when we’re gathering around just kind of hang out with friends and family because most people know I danced living around here. So that's always nice and a lot of people have questions about it, what’s going on. Leif: Now when it comes to the dancing, and what's kind of neat for me, is about the time that I started being here at Fort Union more, you were at one of the first Indian Arts Showcases that I got to be here for, so I've gotten to see you perform before and kind of watch you grow up a little bit, you know one one event per season type of a thing which is which is kind of cool. So could you describe like for Indian Arts Showcase anyway, for folks who've never been there before, there's actually a variety of dance styles that are being done or dance genres based upon the type that it is and even what you're wearing. Could you elaborate on that a little bit for us? Thearsha: Yeah, so men and women all have different categories. There's for men's there’s traditional, grass, fancy, and [electronic blip] and those all kind of vary on what you were learned and taught as you grow up. And for women's you have traditional, fancy, and jingle. And I dance jingle and that dance is like a healing dance. It's like a healing dance. So when I'm dancing I am sending prayers to a everybody who needs prayers or just to send them out and that way people like understand this is what my dance is. So we do that. And then when I dance at the Indian arts it, you know makes me grateful that you know, I was asked to do that and show my culture with people who has never been able to see that before. And then when people, you know people come up and talk to me after we’re done and it's like they say “ Is this just for fun or is it like a lifestyle?” I say it's a lifestyle. I travel all over the summer. I wouldn't trade it for the world. Leif: You talked about how the dancing that you do is a type of prayer dance. Thearsha: Yes. Leif: What other things are taking place with the different styles of dances? Thearsha: Um the fancy shawl, which is also a woman’s dance, is considered a butterfly, because as you're dancing they you started in a cocoon and you slowly open up that means you're opening up to the world and you're saying this is me. That's always nice. I used to dance it also, but I went to the old style jingle, which was, you know, they started contemporary now, which is fancy footwork. And that's not me. I like the old style. I like to be how they were. Leif: Right. Thearsha: This one, you don't crack it or no circles, or you don't go backwards. And that's always nice because it's easy. I can't say it easy. It's hard actually. And then um, it's new, or more people are starting to dance the old style way, going back to how they used to dance when they first started this. Leif: So there's a little bit of a resurgence to more of the traditional style within the dance. Thearsha: Yes.

Leif: About how many, and I don't even know because, so that's why I'm asking, how many different styles of dance actually are there? Thearsha: We have four men's categories and 3 women's, and those we all ran, we from Tiny Tots to Golden Age, too, as old as you can get to be dancing still, which is always nice, because you have your babies dancing and they come into the arena, which is always nice. hen you have your elders who are still dancing and being out there and staying healthy. That's always nice. Leif: So when you are dancing and you are participating in these different traditional Native American style dancing, whether it's at Fort Union, powwows, rodeos, or whatever, all these places that you get to go, as you are pursuing this lifestyle, what goes through your thoughts on how the audience sees what you're doing? Thearsha: Um, what goes through my mind is that we're still around. Like we have like the native people are still around, that we're not going anywhere. And that when we’re dancing, we’re like, for sending ourselves to the spirits saying, you know, thank you for this. For me, I think of my grandfather. He was a World War Two veteran. So I like pray for him as my family to keep us strong. And so that's what goes through my mind. And the spectators, I really hope are seeing that hey, you know, she's really into this and she wouldn't trade it for anything. Leif: How do you feel performing at places like Fort Union connects all who see these presentations and bring awareness to the history and culture of the indigenous people? Thearsha: I feel like bringing awareness that kind of helps with people who don't understand anything and that need, that would like to learn. So dancing, there, I know we have more non native folks there, so there I feel grateful to show that with them also. And then when we have more than just myself when we have like a group come down from Newtown that has came down before they also feel grateful. I was talking to a few of them the other day about this and just kind of saying this what I was doing. And I said yeah, like I miss it. So I wish we could have done it. Leif: Right. Thearsha: And so we're all so grateful for it. Leif: From my limited understanding of what a powwow was, before I got to start seeing things like Indian Arts Showcase, I noticed this variety of styles of dances and a variety of the style of dress that was being worn by everybody and it took a little something to get my head wrapped around, because my mind goes to like what Hollywood it might portray as traditional so to speak. Thearsha: Yes. Leif: And it took a little while till I realized, no, this is this is a continuance of culture of what it has become today. We're getting to see that timeline from then to now that's still going on that you are still engaged in your culture that you are sharing with everybody. So for me that was really cool to be able to learn that, to have a little bit better appreciation of what's taking place with the culture anyway. As a young person, how do you feel contemporary views from your generation creates a connection to the past, like going to powwows, ceremonies, seeing events like this through social media, Tick Tock, Facebook, Instagram, and a whole slug of others that you probably know about that I just don’t? Thearsha: Um, I feel like this this day and age everything is recorded and shared on the social media. And you know, that can be a good thing. It can be a bad thing. But when powows are being shared I think hey, this is for people who couldn't make it, our elders who are sick. Don't want to, you know, affect anybody else, and then you know for the people who had never attended one or just wanted to know what about you can look it up. So that's always nice and I watch them. I watch them on YouTube myself just to feel at home sometimes. And then you know when it could be bad sometimes also because people are sharing ceremonies that should not be recorded or shared because those are sacred to our people and that's very disrespectful to us. Leif: So, like, from someone who comes from a walk of life like I do, it's not my place to share those with everybody else, out of respect for, for your heritage and your culture. Thearsha: Yeah. Leif: What do you hope your generation learns, continues, and understands, and carries on for the future? Thearsha: Now, I hope that our generation, you know, learn how to respect our elders and military families more. We, like, the younger generation seem to lose respect as they grow up because they don't they don't want to show it anymore. And you know, that really sucks because that's how I was raised on respect. Then I also hope that they like don't let like they don't lose their language as much because we've already lost language. And I'd rather not lose any more of it because I’m trying to learn to speak mine. And it's hard because it's hard to find people who still speak it. And then I really hope that we continue powows and ceremonies as we go grow up and go on with our lives and we don't let them fade away like they weren't there anymore. Leif: Right. Since you've been involved in and have been pursuing this lifestyle, have you noticed any changes that has gone on since you've been a part of these activities? Thearsha: Yeah, they seem to like, the powows sometimes get smaller at where you’re at and then bigger depends on where you're at. Then they have lots of giveaways, you know, which is a really good thing because they're honoring people still. Like that's what I like is when you know, people are gonna sit down and honor you when you like like we honor our military is when they come home, so that's always nice to see. That really hasn't changed at all. But I see that like more people are joining the dance also younger generations and I really hope that don't change. Leif: Right. How many friends do you have that are pursuing life like this like you? Thearsha: Oh! I’ve got lots. Probably maybe over a hundred. Leif: Awesome! That’s fantastic! Thearsha: Like there's only three or four of us that live around Trenton area, that are dancers and singers maybe. We have a drum group in Williston called the Western Dakotas Singers. Their family drum out here. Well known singers in Montana, so it's always nice to have somebody like that, and they do like, they did my graduation party. They sang for me and then they sang for my cousin Braden the other day. So it was really nice to know that they're still around and they're still singing Leif: Are there any other things that you would want the people who are going to listen to this podcast to know in regards to what you're doing in your culture in as far as Indian Arts goes? Thearsha: Just don't let go of your history people. It's always there. Don't lose it. You're gonna regret it if you do. Leif: Do you have any words of encouragement for people your age and younger people in regards to what's taking place now. Thearsha: Just be safe, you know. Don’t do nothing you wouldn't, that you're gonna regret in life. Stay in school. You know, I just graduated this year even with the cone or coronavirus happening. So it’s a big success. And I even get to start college in the fall, so it's always great. So if you don't, never give up on your dreams because, you know, make a life for yourself. Leif: Thank you so much for letting me interview you. Thearsha: Of course! Thank you!

Listen in as Thearsha McGillis gives us her perspective of Indian Arts Showcase and what her hopes are for future generation's powows and ceremonies.