What’s in a name? If you ask Dakota Goodhouse – the answer is, more than you might think.
“There’s far more history in our own state than we realize,” says Goodhouse, an interpreter at the State Heritage Center and Museum in Bismarck.
Goodhouse wears many hats – he’s an artist, a teacher, a researcher – and at the Heritage Museum, he’s a guide who uses names to bring North Dakota history to life – but not the names you’re used to.
For instance, you probably know of the body of water known as the Missouri River. But before it was christened with the name we now see on every map and sign — the river was named many times over.
That’s where Dakota Goodhouse comes in.
“The Missouri River has five different names,” says Goodhouse. “In Lakota we call it Mnisose. It means ‘the water astir’. Every stream, every river that converges with it, there would be a swirl. That swirl would kick up sediment. Dakota-Lakota people looked at it, and saw the swirls, so it was called Mnisose.”
That’s the sort of eye-opening history that Goodhouse shares with visitors at the State Museum.
“The main objective of interpretation is to provoke reactions,” he says. “Provoke responses. A visitor should have more questions when they walk away than when he or she first came here.”
Based on the reaction from museum-goers I spoke with, mission accomplished.
“When you think about it, all we know is the names that are on the maps that we pick up at the visitor’s center,” says Gene Neyhart, a visitor traveling to the museum from Wisconsin. “And you don’t understand the history, and the people that lived here hundreds of years ago and the names that they may have had.”
Lynn Neyhart had a positive reaction, too. “This country is really a wonderful country,” she says. “And I sometimes think people forget to discover just how interesting it is. You always have to go back into history to find out who came before us.”
“That makes me feel good – when someone has more questions than I can answer,” Goodhouse says.
So, what’s in a name? A gold mine of history – right in our own backyard. Dakota Goodhouse – a man sharing that history – is someone you should know.
Another museum-goer called Goodhouse’s presentation, quote: “the best history class I’ve ever taken.”
You can find him at the State Heritage Center and Museum in Bismarck most Saturdays throughout the year.