Edwin Benson, Language Teacher

Language Links

My name is Edwin Benson. My Indian name used to be Ma-doke-wa-des-she, Iron Bison. Ben Benson was my grandfather. His Indian name was Buffalo Head. I'm about one of the last ones that's able to speak the Mandan language quite fluently. The Lewis and Clark Expedition . . . there is only one name that I recall, and that was White Coyote. In the Mandan language, White Coyote was Sheheke-shoat. I would say, maybe in the older days, they probably called it E-mah-shoat, because the Mandan languages were different from the way I speak today. Black Cat in the Mandan language would me E-goo-hawmp-see, or something like that would be more of an appropriate name for the Mandan Chief.

"A school board member asked me if I would teach the language, and asked me if I was a fluent speaker. I'm about one of the last ones that's able to speak the Mandan language quite fluently. I teach phrases...short phrases, and names and numbers, and short sentences. Children have problems getting up in the morning to do...looking for their clothes and stuff. So I use the short sentence, saying, "Looking for my shoes."

"Sheheke-Shoat. Now, can you tell me what that means? A name of what? What did we say Sheheke was? Coyote, yeah. Sheheke-shoat. Shoat means white. You remember that. We had the colors. Sheheke-shoat...White Coyote. And then another one called Black Cat. The way I would say it in this day and age, I would say Buoss-see. See is black, you remember. We had the colors. Buouss-see ...Black Cat. How many of you own a black cat at home? Buoss-see, Black Cat."