When I started school, I came home and asked my grandmother, who lived with us, if the Sahnish (Arikara) word for bear that I used was English or Arikara. I didn't know because English and Sahnish were used interchangeably at home. I absorbed those words like I absorbed the ceremonies. They were part of what we did each day, like the family who says a Catholic blessing before eating.
It was also hard as a child to understand why my classmates didn't do the same things we did. I learned that Indian culture, language and ceremonies were far too difficult to explain, so I kept quiet and became one of the quietest elementary school students at Sunnyside in Minot.
I learned how important the language is for this reason, too. It is the culture. I learned that words paint pictures of who we are, so to understand a culture, you must understand its language. This is true not just for Indian languages and culture, but all languages and all cultures.