What I knew was the truth

Ms. Schommer talks about how she learned history growing up.

Things to think about: 

How are Oral Histories different for different cultures?

Audio Chapters

DL: What did you learn about Dakota history while you were growing up?

CS: The Dakota history that I learned was oral history shared with all the elders, the grandparents, and the aunties and uncles. The history that they shared was so different from what I read in the history books when I went to school in sixth and seventh grade, for instance. But I liked history. I used to read. I used to get good grades in history. And I knew those stories weren’t true, not the way oral histories were – what I knew was the truth. I found it interesting because that wasn’t the way I heard it; why are they printing that? I knew it was not the truth as far as our people went. Maybe the other side of history by American writers is. But that was interesting too, because I learned about history the way the wasichu (non-Indians) saw it.

DL: What was the way the Dakotas saw it?

CS: Oral history.

DL: And how did it differ? What was the storyline that was different?

CS: The difference in that the way they told the history was like if you were to sit down and listen to, not so much a lecture, but more like sharing and learning about your own people; how they survived. There was a lot of truth to it that you saw and knew, from what these elders were telling you.

They lived it; they lived that history that they were telling. What they were telling us was something for us to know and to remember about what happened to our people. And the history was about the way things happened to us and how we were treated; what the other culture did to our people through a lot of different hardships. The elders saw it happen, so that was the way they told it. They saw so many things. And when you heard it like that, you understood it; you almost lived it. I love to read – I can read different things and I really get into it. I have grandchildren that love to read and I like that because you’re absorbing things more by reading than if somebody were reading it to you. With oral history, you almost live what that person is telling you. Like I said, my auntie used to be the story-teller. When you listened to her, you were actually living everything that she was telling you. You were going through all of that. And you would even get excited when it came to certain parts, because she was the one that was telling us, and it was the truth. And so that made it that much more exciting because we knew it to be the truth and that it was part of us..

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Carrie Schommer Interviewer Deborah Locke made in Granite Falls, Upper Sioux Community, MN | Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. What I knew was the truth May 29, 2024. http://www.usdakotawar.org/node/1114

Viewpoints: All viewpoints expressed on this website are those of the contributors, and are not representative of the Minnesota Historical Society.