Calvin Grinnell, Historian

Page 14 of 14


Hello, my name is Calvin Grinnell, and I am a member of the Fort Berthold Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Committee. I'm also a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes . . . the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara. On behalf of my people, I want to welcome you, one and all, to our reservation in western North Dakota. We are very proud of our state and our reservation. We have some attractions, and we have some natural scenic wonders that you might enjoy. We are known since the days of Lewis and Clark as very hospitable people, and when the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition comes by, we hope to be able to accommodate your needs and to answer your questions, and give you some idea of what we thought of our people's roles in history.

I'm a direct descendant of Four Bears. There were two Four Bears. One was the Mandan Four Bears who died in 1837 during the smallpox epidemic. He was a member of the Five Villages. Later on, there was a Hidatsa Four Bears, who signed the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. I am proud of the fact that I'm descended from him. These were chiefs of our people, and I always think of them as role models. They were our leaders." "The chiefs of old, and the present-day tribal council representatives, they were counterparts. They are expected to do as the chiefs of old did, and indeed some of them do. They participate in community activities such as celebrations, and what is known today in the general vernacular as a 'pow-wow'.

My name is Running Elk. that's my Indian name. It was given to me by a World War I veteran, Martin Levings. He led me around the celebration circle to announce to everyone that that was my name, and I was entitled to it. I'd just graduated from boot camp in the U.S. Marine Corps. From then on, I've basically done the proper ethics to warrant carrying that name on forward.

I'm a historian at the Three Affiliated Tribes Museum. I've always had an interest in our history and culture. I know we have a very proud history of self-sufficiency and being, I guess, survivors.

Cultural preservation is important for all people but more so for our Indian people because it's an aspect of a person's identity, and when is a person is secure in their identity and in their selfhood, then they can interact positively with other people.They're proud of their heritage, proud of themselves. Then they have the self-confidence and the character to take care of themselves in this world, and to be contributing members of society.

The youth of the reservation have opportunities, and we look to the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial as a prime opportunity for them to seek employment, or even start their own businesses.

The major contribution probably was maps . . . that we had an understanding of the country beyond our villages, up into the Rocky Mountains. We gave them an idea of how to go, where to go. Even the Three Forks was indicated on those maps. Secondarily, we gave them a "base camp," the last known village before the "Great Beyond," so to speak. We provided them with foodstuffs that we used in our winter camps or hunting parties. For example, the cornballs, or what's known today as pemmican.

History hasn't been kind to us. There's a belief that the Mandans are extinct. Probably the Hidatsas even more so. I want to say that we are alive and well, living here on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, and we are contributing members of society. A lot of our people have become doctors and lawyers and business people, and educators. And we are looking very positively towards the future of our people, to make a better life for ourselves and our children.