Responsibility and Resilience
Chief Old Dog got all the attention, and he was even photographed by the famous Edward S. Curtis. But his wife, Many Dances, in keeping with their matrilineal Hidatsa tribal society of North Dakota, “was every bit his equal,” says Charles Hudson of his great-grandmother. “I thought it was long overdue for someone to properly honor her — and in a way that gives to Indian Country, and beyond.”
So in 2016, Charles formed the Many Dances Family Fund at OCF, overseen by Charles and his three sons. It focuses on land stewardship, outdoors ethics, homelessness, food sovereignty, addiction/recovery and the growing movement to reintegrate traditional, healthful diets into people’s lives.
“I want my sons to carry on our ancient family tradition of community, charity and a clean environment.”
The fund’s name symbolizes the Hidatsa culture, which passes down affiliations, assets and values through the women in families. Generations of Old Dog’s and Many Dances’ descendants have forged careers in Indian law, education, health and the environmental sciences. Charles, a Mandan-Hidatsa tribal member, is one of them, as governmental affairs director for the Columbia River InterTribal Fish Commission in Portland.
The environment itself has contributed to the Many Dances Family Fund. “Sadly, Old Dog’s and Many Dances’ original home and lands along the Missouri River were lost, due to the construction of the Garrison Dam in 1953. But with their foresight, they secured new lands above the waterline and mineral rights that, still today, deliver income to their heirs — along with responsibilities,” says Charles. The Many Dances Family Fund “demonstrates our family’s resilience and carries on our ancient tribal traditions of community, charity and care of the land.”