Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

Yaya’s Trunk: Stories from past

“Growing up with the Salish Language”
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

This week’s story comes from Lucy Vanderburg that tells recollections of growing up hearing Salish as a first language to places she’d go to people she knew.

Growing up as a child I was fortunate to live in a very traditional home where our native language was spoken all the time. As a result, English kind of took a back seat to Salish. I heard it everyday from my parents, Jerome and Agnes Vanderburg. Since my yaya Adele Vanderburg, Qene Sophie Moiese, and Skwukwi Louise Vanderburg, spoke very little English, I had to converse with them in my first language. My childhood was fun. There was so much to do in a day that I was never bored.

My family spent a good share of the summer months camping in the woods. My dad loved the South Fork of the Jocko. If we weren’t camped up in the South Fork, we were at Placid Lake at our friend, Wilbur Vaughn’s meadow. I think of Wilbur from time to time and I know he was a good friend to not only my family but to many families from the Reservation. He was an old hermit who lived alone with his dog Bobby. Bobby was an Airedale and not friendly at all. He used to scare all of us kids and Wilbur would always say that; “he won’t hurt you”. But I don’t know, we stayed clear of him all the time.

Wilbur’s meadow, in late Spring was nothing but Camas (Sxweli) and my Mom, my Qene and Skwukwi always looked forward to digging large bags full. We would clean and prepare them to bake Sckwl’ep along with Shawtmqn (black tree moss). I enjoyed helping, it was fun and didn’t seem like work at all. We also picked many bags full of Sarvisberries (slaq) and sun dried them. Placid Lake was like Mother Nature’s table for plants, roots, berries. By the time we moved home my mother had enough dried and stored for the whole winter. We could also fish and swim in Placid Lake. We used a big round net that Wilbur made to catch whitefish from his barn window. That was so exciting. Wilbur had an old rowboat that he let us go out on to fish. The boat leaked so we had to bail water out every so often. My Skwukwi loved to fish so she was always taking that old rowboat out. I think she let us kids go along so we could bail the water out.

Another area close to Placid Lake was Clearwater. We camped there for deer hunting to get our winter supply. This is where my brother Vic shot his first deer. He must have been about 10 or 11 years old. We were camped there one late Fall with quite a few other Arlee families like Joe and Catherine Eneas, Ellen Big Sam and her family, Don and PeeWee Christopher, my Nunume Lomie Adams and his family, my Skwukwi Louise and Pascal Charlo, my Qene Sophie Moiese and of course our family. It was late October so there was snow on the ground. The men went hunting and my brother Vic was excited to go. As the day wore down they all came back to camp and my Dad told my mom that Vic shot his deer. My Mom was so pleased with Vic. She went around and told all the women in camp and they began preparing a feast. When a young man kills his first deer, it IS a big celebration. My Qene went out and showed Vic how to properly gut and skin a deer. To this day I know that Vic is the fastest and cleanest at gutting and skinning a deer. After the deer was skinned he was told to cut it up and give it away to all the other campers. After that, we had a feast to honor him for his first kill. The ladies of the camp brought out all the berries, roots etc. that they had saved. I must say it was a good feast. The elders in camp all took turns talking to Vic about culture and tradition and prayers were said for him to be a good hunter. To be respectful and caring. This feast, as I recall was very meaningful. It was an honor to be there and to share with my brother all the blessings bestowed upon him by the Elders. Vic grew up to be a very good hunter who always shared with whoever needed help. I am very proud of my brother.

I value my traditional cultural lifestyle and am always willing to share what I learned to anyone who cares to listen and learn. It is important to me to share my knowledge with the young people.

Kwmi xest lu asxlxaltmp. May good things fill your days.”

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