Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

Yaya’s Trunk: Stories from past

“Indian Names”
By Lailani Upham

“Spa aq Smetkwet,” which means, “Sun shining on the snow.” It is the name Charlo gave to her first grandchild, “To me, snow has always been beautiful and necessary. Especially beautiful is to see the reflection of the sun shining on the snow. The sparkling crystals that nearly blind you with their brightness and clarity and the promise of continuing life is a blessing.” (Lailani Upham photo) “Spa aq Smetkwet,” which means, “Sun shining on the snow.” It is the name Charlo gave to her first grandchild, “To me, snow has always been beautiful and necessary. Especially beautiful is to see the reflection of the sun shining on the snow. The sparkling crystals that nearly blind you with their brightness and clarity and the promise of continuing life is a blessing.” (Lailani Upham photo)

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 maryjanec@cskt.org.

This week’s story, “Indian Names,” is from a blog by Mary Jane Charlo, since folks started shifting in low gear lately in sending stories in to be published.

“People get Indian names. I’ve always wondered when I was young why and how people received their names. Some are named for ancestors who have passed on. Some are named Mali for Mary, Suset for Josephine. Some have animal names. Some have names of plants. I always thought the name Camas was such a good name. Beautiful, life-giving, nourishing, there is strength in a name. Especially when these names are names that are actually used every day, the name comes to life, the importance is instilled within us.

There was a time when I lived far away from our reservation. I missed being with Indians, I missed hearing the language. I missed the animals, and the mountains, especially the mountains. I had seen them every day as I grew up. At daybreak, midday, sunset, covered with snow in the moonlight of a full moon, all green in the spring, each time I saw them, was a special experience. The mountains never look the same, sometimes the snow is different, or the light is different with the different weather conditions and time of day. They are so steady and strong, changing but always there. We have gotten our water from them, our plants, our animals, our lives are so interwoven with the strength of our mountains.

While I was living away and lonely for the land back home, I was pregnant with my first born. I was looking at books, one had a picture of a woman dancing in the sunlight in a doorway rejoicing in the birth of her child. The caption read, ‘Now I know how the earth feels when she gives birth to a mountain.’ I told my husband, ‘If I have a boy, his name will be Mountain.’ I had a boy. He was teased about his name a lot, Mountain man, mountain dew to name a couple. When his auntie told him he had a hippy name, he asked his Sile, Tony, ‘Grampa, do I have a hippy name?’ His grampa told him, ‘No, you have a good strong Indian name.’ No one could get under his skin after that. He knew how good his name was.

To me, snow has always been beautiful and necessary. Especially beautiful, is to see the reflection of the sun shining on the snow. The sparkling crystals that nearly blind you with their brightness and clarity and the promise of continuing life is a blessing. So was my first grandchild, she was so smart, so tuned in to my thinking, such a beautiful child. I would often watch her play just to see her movements, the twinkle in her eyes, her smiles. She was always willing to help Yaya with whatever was asked. So full of energy, she knew no fear. She would go with me anywhere then, and still does accompany me. She was so full of love. She was patient, kind and calm. Special. At name-giving time when she was still a little girl, I named her, ‘Spa aq Smetkwet.’ ‘Sun Shining on the Snow.’ I told her why.

We give names because they are important, they anchor people to their culture and continue the beliefs, and also, to keep in our minds the ideas, or concepts that are precious to us. That’s just my opinion.”

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