Speaker outlines Dakota female roles

NEW ULM – A Dakota elder and culture consultant described the female role in her culture and what it meant to learn the language at an older age Monday at a noon history talk in the Brown County Historical Society (BCHS) Annex.

Sandy (Rose) Geshick, of Cansayapi Otunwe (the village where they paint the trees red, aka the Lower Sioux community near Morton), said her name means “bird with a pretty-sounding voice” in English.

“Dakota names speak to people’s character,” Geshick said, talking about the Dakota view nature and its relationship to people. “I really liked birds. They are able to know what you’re feeling. If they do, they’ll eat out of your hand. I tried to imitate songbirds singing to each other as a child.”

Geshick said her parents attended Indian boarding schools and were so affected by it, they didn’t teacher her the Dakota language when she was young. “I learned it later and found it very humbling and fulfilling,” she added. “Our language is sacred. It has no negative words and comes from the heart, not the head.”

Geshick said she didn’t intent to change anyone’s mind about who Dakota are, simply plant a seed of respect for everyone and enable better understanding between cultures.

“We’re all related,” she said. “The four sacred Dakota obligations are to keep your body strong, have a clear mind and spirit and have devotions. Prayer, exercise, eating healthy and having no negative thoughts are essential.”

She said traditional Dakota women were silent partners, but men would ask them for advice and bring their voices forward among other men.

Geshick said traditional Dakota infants had their hands bound to cradle boards in order for them to develop senses other than touch at first, in order make them more keen.

She said traditional upbringing of girls age three to ten emphasized bead making, cooking, self-respect and respecting discipline of themselves and others.

From age 10 to 20 they learned how to live in harmony with the environment, self-control, how to respect men and other women, children, and Mother Nature.

“My father could tell what the weather would be two days in advance by looking at nature,” Geshick said. “Today, all this modern technology can stand in the way of learning through nature and listening to adults and elders. All their knowledge should be put to good use and make the world a better place than it was when they came to it.”

She said Dakota elders are respected in many ways. “They eat first and are never interrupted or disrespected in any way,” Geshick said. “My grandmother taught me how to skin deer hides and what plants to pick for herbal medicine and how to sew.”

She cited the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) enacted by Congress in 1978 enabled Indians to legally regain some of their culture. The federal law was enacted to protect and preserve traditional religious rights and cultural practices of American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts and Native Hawaiians. The rights included access to sacred sites, freedom to worship through ceremonial and traditional rights and use and possess objects considered sacred. It also acknowledge the prior violation of that right.

Noon history week continues Tuesday at the BCHS Annex with author Dan Munson presenting research on the lives of the four Kochendorfer children who were orphaned in Redwood County at the start of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

For more information, visit www.browncountyhistorymn.org/

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com).

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