“If you want to speak to me, speak to me in my language, or your language.”

Mr. Blue discusses growing up, speaking Dakota, going to school, and learning the English language. He describes the effect that joining the military service had on his life.

Things to think about: 

How does being forced to learn another language effect someone's identity? How might it effect a child?

Audio Chapters

DL: When you were in school, what were your favorite subjects?

DB: Girls. Actually, when I got out of the service, and prior to that, going to school here in Granite, I really had no favorite subjects. Frankly, here’s the scenario: I knew very little English when I went to school and I wasn’t the only one. For most of the kids my age at that time who went to school, the teachers all thought we were dumb. It’s not that we were – probably some of us were, maybe, but the point is, when you don’t have command of the English language and understand it, you’re going to have a very difficult time trying to understand math and history. Of course, history was never correct anyway, insofar as the white man and Indian. That type of history is never correct. But anyway, that’s beside the point. The point I’m trying to make is that when we went to school, my brothers and I had a very difficult time, simply because of the fact that we had very little knowledge of the English language. And so we struggled. I’m surprised that I got as far as I did; I got up there in ninth grade, and that’s when I dropped out and went into the service. So my favorite subjects – I can’t honestly say I had any.

DL: The relative with the most influence on you.

DB: Okay, my grandfather. When we were youngsters, we began to understand the English language a little bit because we were in school and so forth, and we were able to speak somewhat. As I said, the English language is not very difficult. It is if you want to get in depth, in terms of deep conversations, yes, it is very difficult. But what we used, of course, was the simplest form of the language. Anyway, our grandfather would never permit us to speak in the English language in his presence. And if we tried to address him in, as we call wasicu which means “white man,” the wasicu language, he wouldn’t answer us. He wouldn’t give us any type of a response. But he would say in Dakota, “If you want to speak to me, speak to me in my language, or your language.” So I suppose to some large degree, my brothers and I happened to retain the language as we did, because we had to grow up that way. As a result, we do have two languages, English and Dakota.

DL: Did the war have a direct impact on you and your family?

DB: I think the impact it had, at least with me is, there’s a world out there. Before I went into the service, I only knew the small village I lived in. And as a result, when I went to school I had a difficult time trying to understand because of the language barrier. But to me, what I probably appreciate most was the fact that I became somewhat knowledgeable about what the world was all about. I’m sure my dad felt the same way too, being over in Germany and over in the European theater [of World War Two]. Meanwhile, of course, my mother, poor woman, she sat back here and I’m sure she was twiddling her thumbs every day – what’s her husband doing and what’s her son doing. You know, here’s a war going on and she’s just sitting at home. So I’m sure that was very difficult for her. But when I got out of the service, and I’m sure the same held true with my dad, the issues never came up, she never questioned us. She never questioned me and she never questioned my dad about the war, and it was, again, it was just left behind – it was over with, done, forget it, life goes on.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Dean Blue 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. “If you want to speak to me, speak to me in my language, or your language.” June 24, 2019. http://www.usdakotawar.org/node/1012

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