Dakota Zoo incorporating Native American culture into the education of animals indigenous to the Northern Plains

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Next time you go to the Dakota Zoo, you’ll notice a new addition.

The zoo told the stories of the animals through Native American culture.

With five Tribal Nations in the state, the Dakota Zoo recognized the need to educate people about the animals Indigenous to the Northern Plains.

That’s when they decided to partner with the Sacred Pipe Resource Center to implement educational components.

“We’ve got kind of this area behind me, the medicine wheel, and what starts off with a rock that kind of explains that we are all related and how animals sort of fit in with humans in sort of a partnership, relationship,” explained Terry Lincoln, the Director of the Dakota Zoo.

Throughout the zoo, there will be signage with the cultural significance of specific animals and audio with the pronunciation of each animal in five different tribal languages.

“Personally, I’ve gone around to the signs many, many times. I’m trying to memorize them. It’s going to take me a long time because some of them are pretty, pretty challenging,” explained Lincoln.

Six days this summer the Sacred Pipe Resource Center will have storytellers on hand to tell visitors the stories of each animal.

“We are training native storytellers right now. They are native youth, young people. We’re training to tell time honor stories about the animals and how they relate to us as native people and how they’re a part of the ecosystem,” explained Cheryl Kary, the Executive Director for Sacred Pipe Resource Center.

Kary says the whole spirit of the project is bringing people together and helping them understand.

“We don’t always learn about Native people in spaces like this and so this opportunity to be able to use this really beautiful space to help create partnerships with Native and non-Native people and understanding between Native and non-Native people I think is just beautiful. It’s just a beautiful thing,” explained Kary.

Animals that will be featured include bison, eagles, porcupines, wolves and badgers.

Saturday, the zoo, along with the Sacred Pipe Resource Center, will host an event to introduce the new additions.

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