Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

Yaya’s Trunk: Stories from the past

My First Wing Dress

By Lailani Upham

PABLO — The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Social Service’s Circle of Trust Program is launching a new column called “Yaya’s Trunk” in the Char-Koosta News that will be featured every week for the Positive Indian Parenting curriculum.

The column will be a collection of stories from community members to carry on the teachings and stories of the Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille. The stories reinforce the value of traditional beliefs and practices in daily lives of the families that are served, according to Mary Jane Charlo, Circle of Trust Youth Activities Coordinator.

CSKT Positive Parenting would like to urge community elders and parents to share their stories from years back, or any experience to help build a connection to the now and the past.

The personal short stories will be included in the curriculum of the program in the context of teaching mindfulness and to strengthen youth connection to tribal culture by naturally introducing practices and stories of native tradition, Charlo says.

“Your stories don’t have to be remarkable or heart stopping, just something taught you or learned something from it, and how to be a good person.”

Charlo says the staff is ready to help anyone write their story if they choose to simply tell it. She said the staff understands there are some folks that don’t feel comfortable writing. It is more important that the stories are carried down to the next generation she says.

Old photos would be appreciated with stories submitted.

To contribute stories, please call Mary Jane Charlo at (406) 675-2700, ext. 1333; or email at

This week’s story written by staff Darnell Auld, is called, “My First Wing Dress.”

"When I went to Wellpinit, Washington, to play stick game I had the awesome opportunity to play in a material game with some fantastic women. Since I had never played in a material game and didn’t have anything to bet a wonderful woman named Thyra Moses handed me a small package that had a necklace, a small material bag (which I still have and handed down to my daughter), and some material. In playing the games, I lose the necklace, which was pretty blues and greens, which I still see around the stick game trail. I lose the material also, Wow, we are losing quickly here and I manage to have the material bag, so I make the last bet that I have and win some sheer material, which is sheer fabric with yellow and small floral prints all over it. I love it.

Upon returning to Montana, I think, ‘I could make myself a dress with this material.’ So, I ask my auntie, ‘Um, so do you think you could help me make a dress?’ She said, ‘Yes, but you will have to get some more material for a slip cause this I see-through.’ I said, ‘Yep, I will.’ I proceed to the store and buy some pink material for a slip. I have enough material and we go back to her house and proceed to sew. I get the sheer fabric done in record time for the first time sewing. I can’t believe it. I am so proud of myself, maybe a little too proud.

So, now we are at the slip I get the body of the slip done and my teacher tell me, ‘You could have a little ruffle on the top to make the wings stand out a little bit here.’ Wow, you can do ruffles? See, I am a novice seamstress, so I have no idea that you can actually do something like that. So, she pins it up and said, ‘Here, now sew it together. You saw how I did it. You can sew the other side.’ Okay, yes, I saw how she done it. I am so happy that I get that one arm sewn together in no time flat. Wow! Again, my pride takes over and I think, ‘Yep, the next one will be no problem at all.’ Wrong! I start putting it together and get it sewn up and I look at it. It’s inside out. I get frustrated and take the seam ripper to it and start again. The same results happen again. What? Seriously, I am having some difficulties and I proceed again to take the seam ripper to the material and rip it out again. Okay, the third time has got to be the charm right? Nope, not this time, again I do the same thing. Now, mind you, my frustration has set in and I am extremely mad. I go outside and have a cigarette to calm down and think to myself, ‘What am I doing wrong? I put it together the same way that she showed me. How come it come it keeps coming out wrong?’ So, I go back and tell the material, the machine and myself, “This time, I will finally get it done and it will be right.’ So, I am proceeding to sew again, and this time I think I finally got it. I am so proud of myself! I take it off the machine and start parading around. ‘Look guys! I finally got it done!’ I said to my family, and they look at me and start laughing. I said, ‘What?’ I finally did it. Nope, one more time it’s wrong. I must have looked defeated, but my teacher doesn’t come to rescue me. She said, ‘Do it again.’ I want to bawl my head off, but I don’t I look at the material and what I am doing wrong, and this time I finally, finally get it done. The one arm that took me almost all night to finish is finally done. So this time before I start to parade it around once again, I make sure that I have to sewn together right. Yes! Success! I finally put on the slip and parade around in my first wing dress. I thought one more time that I would have to rip the stitches out and sew it again, but no, I had finally finished that first wing dress. My teacher inspects my work and told me, ‘See, you could do it. You just needed patience.’ A lesson I have never forgotten, but I haven’t had the chance to make another slip for a dress. I make sure that the material I have is never sheer fabric again.”

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