June 14, 2012
Elmo celebrates with Charlo
Helen carefully and methodically slices her birthday cake like a professional. She must be – after 95 years of experience, she’s pretty crafty with the cake knife. (Kim Swaney photo)
ELMO — Family, friends, community members, and Tribal Waves flooded the Hall in Elmo last Wednesday to celebrate Ellen “Helen” Charlo’s 95th birthday.
Even Lake County District Court Judge Deborah “Kim” Christopher made an initial appearance to wish Elmo’s eldest resident a happy birthday.
Charlo is Elmo’s oldest tribal member and she is recognized as one of the five oldest tribal members and on Wednesday nights she greets Tribal Waves at the Hall each week for Family Night. Tribal Waves, an indigenous group from all earthly directions, meets each week in Elmo and devotes their time to family - especially the youth, providing dinner and biblical readings. It was Tribal Waves last shindig until the fall when they will return and start up their weekly dinner and gatherings once again.
At the conclusion of the birthday celebration for Helen Charlo, Tribal Waves lit up the Hall while they performed their Fire Dance. (Kim Swaney photo)
Throughout the evening, Helen received hundreds of birthday wishes from young and old alike. “I want everyone to make it this far … to live this long, then they can have lots of memories to talk about,” Helen says as she accepts a birthday greeting.
Tribal Waves and Chief Cliff Drummers both performed after the roasted pig feast put on by Tribal Waves and community members. Helen’s family also gifted members of Tribal Waves for kindly guiding their youth every week with activities and outings.
After a couple of songs and a Round Dance by Chief Cliff, Tribal Waves performed a few more choreographies and closed the evening with a Fire Dance.
Sika Ulutoa’s daughter teaches children in Elmo her dance moves during Helen Charlo’s 95th birthday celebration at the Hall. (Kim Swaney photo)
According to the Records and Enrollment Office at the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the five oldest tribal members are all women. Velma Bradley of Kalispell is the eldest member and she will be 98 in November. Alice Gardipe of Arlee is the second oldest, followed by Olivine Burland of Ronan. Both ladies will celebrate their 96th birthdays this fall and winter. Evelyn Wilson of California celebrated her 95th this past February and followed by Helen Charlo who is the fifth eldest member.