February 25, 2016

Honoring Elders and Traditional Ways

By Jerry W. Kram

The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara peoples have a history that extends back into the mists of prehistory. For centuries, they recorded their history and documented their culture not with written words, but the songs and oral storytelling of their ancestors.

Today, in the era of the Internet, the power of the drums and voices are still felt on the banks of the Missouri River the three tribes hold sacred. In the Johnny Bird Memorial Hall, 10 bearers of the tribes’ culture and tradition were honored for keeping some traditional songs alive at a round dance. Ten of 13 elders invited to the ceremony attended, Art Smith, Alfred Morsette Jr., Delvin Driver Sr., Marvin Driver, Malcolm Wolf, Tony Mandan, Edwin Benson, Bobby Bear, Roger Grady, Emerson Baker, Angus Fox, Wayne Hunter and Matthew Mason.

"We want to honor our elder singers who have been passing on their traditions," said Darian Morsette, director of MHA Tourism. "We named this event ‘Traditional Songs of the Upper Missouri’ to honor our elder mens singers. These are the songs we are carrying on and want to pass on to the younger generation."

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