Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

Yaya’s Trunk: Stories from past

“Don't Read In The Car”
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 understand 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

Leenie (Morigeau) Marion, writes this week’s story “Don’t Read In The Car.”

“When I was a young girl I use to spend a lot of time with my brother Jim and his family in Mission. It was then that I was blessed to meet my Ya-Ya Agnes Incashola (God rest her soul). She was pretty old but you would have never known it because she got around very well, and she was always on the move. Although she didn’t speak English, I learned a lot from her over the years. That’s the cool thing about communication; you don’t always have to speak the same language to understand what someone is saying. With that being said, there were times when I wished I would have known what she was saying to keep myself out of trouble.

Everyone around me called her Grandma Incashola, so that’s what I called her too. She called me ‘Ya-Yaht.’ I do not recall anyone telling me why she called me that or what it meant, (if it meant anything at all) but coming from her it made me feel very special.

On this particular early summer day we all jumped into the brown Ford LTD, as we did so many times before, and headed for the Jocko. It was always my brother, his then wife Joann, my niece and nephews, Grandma Incashola, and me.

It was a very memorable time in my life because we were always taking Grandma someplace she wanted to go to pick berries or dig roots. Whatever the occasion was, time spent with Grandma Incashola always resulted in cultural learning experiences for me. Whatever we happened to be picking or digging at the time, we had to get a lot of it, because Grandma liked to keep a stock on hand in case she had visitors from Washington to trade with. She liked to trade for salmon.

I believe on this outing we were going to pick Sarvis berries. I would always ride in the back seat with Grandma and a couple of the kids. Grandma would sit in the backseat on the passenger side and I would sit behind on the driver’s side. The drive up to the Jocko is always a beautiful one, but it’s also a long one. I’ve made the ride so many times that I guess on this particular day I felt like reading instead of sight-seeing.

At some point, I heard Grandma speak, and whatever she said it had ‘Ya-Yaht’ in the sentence so I stopped reading and lifted my head. I knew she was either talking to me or about me so I wanted to pay attention. Without even turning around, Joann said, ‘Grandma said to stop reading in the car.’ I was kind of confused because I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong, and Joann didn’t go into any detailed explanation, so I just shrugged my shoulders and stopped reading. A part of me was curious, because no one told me why I couldn’t read in the car, so I started reading again, but this time I turned at an angle towards the door thinking Grandma couldn’t see me. Obviously I was wrong. Once again, Grandma said something, and this time with a little more irritation in her voice. Then Joann said, ‘I told you, Grandma said to stop reading in the car, its bad luck.’

Ah-Ha! Bad luck. So now I knew why I wasn’t supposed to read in the car. Even with this knowledge a small part of me didn’t believe it, so once again I secretly started to read. This time I held the book down as low as I could on the left hand side of the seat. I just knew there was no way Grandma could see it, and I was right! She didn’t have to see me reading, though, because the next thing we heard was ‘thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump,’ and the car started slowing down. I looked up to see what was going on, and I could tell my brother was pulling off to the side of the road. All I could hear him say was, ‘Oh (S-word) we have a flat!’

Simultaneously, Grandma started to rise up, holding onto to the back of Joann’s seat trying to see around the headrest. She started saying something, and I could tell by the tone of her voice she was asking why we were stopping.

I couldn’t believe it! I was thinking, ‘No way, are you kidding me? This really didn’t just happen?’

Joann told Grandma what happened and, I prepared for a tongue-lashing. Grandma started to get out of the car, and as she was getting out she started grumbling about something. Joann turned to me and said, ‘She said she told you to stop reading in the car because its bad luck, and you didn’t listen. That’s why we have a flat.’

Needless to say, I never doubted another thing Grandma Incashola said, and I never read in the car again after that. Eventually, when my girls were growing up they too had to be told not to read in the car. When they asked me why, I told them this story. The big difference was they listened and I didn’t.”

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