Learning About Native American Culture at Berman

Written by Ava August on . Posted in Features

Lakota means allies. We were separate peoples who bound together because it is harder to break five sticks tied together than it is to break one.” The power of unity was one of Dovie Thomason’s main points during her talk to sophomores at Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Maryland. Dovie is a storyteller who travels from place to place to talk about her culture. A member of the Lakota tribe, she spoke about their beliefs and their folktales.

Dovie spoke a lot about the way she dresses and the way her tribe dresses. She said that every tribe dresses in a different way, and that she has jewelry and other articles of clothing from her family. Part of her culture includes passing heirlooms and important artifacts from generation to generation. “I have jewelry older than America,” Dovie said. This really illustrated that the Lakota and other Native American tribes were here long before the Europeans sailed here and took over.

One thing that I found very interesting was that within her tribe, they have different clans, and each clan is represented by a different animal. Dovie is a member of the turtle clan. Members of the same clan don’t marry each other, because it is considered incest; for me, this showed how close each clan is, like one big family.

Sophomore Sophia Mazel was really intrigued by what Dovie said about “the spheres.” The first sphere that everyone starts off with is you: You are one sphere in the existence of the world. Then comes your family and friends. Without family and friends, you wouldn’t be able to have a happy life. Next is your nation; they are the people who are like you but aren’t your family or close friends. There are many more Dovie told us about, but these are the core spheres in a daily life. When you put all of these together, that’s what makes the world peaceful, she said.

The mother has a major role in the Lakota society. Children’s clans are based on the mother’s clan. This is similar to some Jewish beliefs. The woman of the house also owns land. The man doesn’t have ownership of the house. This was different because we are so used to the man being in charge in American society. It was fascinating to see the contrast between the two very different societies.

By Ava August


Ava August is a sophmore at Berman Hebrew Academy.