Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

Yaya’s Trunk: Stories from past

“We need more stories! Submit yours today!”
By Lailani Upham

PABLO — The Yaya’s Trunk corner has grown in popularity beyond the local area – however, the raw stories have been scarce here at the Char-Koosta Newsroom.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Social Service’s Circle of Trust Program Youth Activities Coordinator Mary Jane Charlo coordinated an effort a few months back to feature stories from tribal members that would help carry on teachings and stories of the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille for the Positive Indian Parenting curriculum.

“This section exists for your thoughts and expressions of what made your life good. In this age of technology the best part of our lives is still our family and our beliefs. We need to perpetuate those things for others who do not have those resources to draw from when times get tough. They need to hear from us what is important,” stated Charlo in a recent interview on the lack of stories being submitted.

On the weeks where stories are missing – they definitely are missed.

“Many people have told me how much they enjoy Yaya’s Trunk Stories. I went to Coeur D’Alene for their anniversary celebration. I was near Yamncut Drum, asking Betty Quequesah if I could leave my shawl and fan next to her, when one of the announcers hollered at me over the drums. When I finally got what he said, it really surprised me, it caught me off guard. He said, he missed the Yaya’s Trunk Stories this week. I yelled back, ‘No one submitted anything.’ Wow, they read those stories in Coeur D’ Alene or Nez Perce country. People do enjoy them everywhere,” Charlo shared.

The call has been out to 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.

Charlo stated, “I enjoy writing, it’s a way to express myself and to remember days gone by. The good old days when children actually played with each other and they were able to play outside for hours worry-free. The days when you knew your neighbors and people visited each other. Now there are so many people moving into our communities, sometimes you can go to the store or even up in the mountains and you don’t know the people you see there. We can still claim the stories of our lives, we are important, what we have to say is important. Every story submitted has had something to teach or realize as tribal members. However, this is not my story corner. It was created for aiding in the building of curriculum for positive Indian parenting, with the greater tribal community having input into what is taught to our young parents and families. When reading the stories submitted by people I realized that these stories are building a common thread between us all. We are getting to know each other better and learning something about ourselves and other tribal members who remain in our hearts and memories.”

Charlo adds that a person who previously wrote a story can send in another story if they wish. “There is no limit on how many stories one person submits,” she stated.

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.

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 are 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 Myrna Dumontier.

“My childhood was spent following the seasonal gathering cycle. My Tupia, Louise Vanderburg, her son Pascal Charlo and her brother Jerome Vanderburg and his family were constantly aware of their natural environment and what was about to be ready for harvest. They would pack up their camp and travel to the area that would offer up its ‘fruit.’

When I was about eight years old my Tupia and her family had moved to Placid Lake in the month of January. The snow was deep and it was cold. My Dad one day said to all of us that we were going to Placid Lake to visit and check on his YaYa and family. So we loaded up the old International cattle truck and away we went up through the Jocko Canyon and over the mountains to Placid Lake. I was so excited to be going to ‘Wilburs,’ he was a man of mystery to me. He had a homestead there on Placid Creek near the edge of the lake, he had hound dogs, horses and a little log cabin. His barnyard was an array of old buildings, a big barn and corrals, lots of interesting places for kids to explore. He never really had much to say to kids it seemed like, but he could talk for hours on end with the adults. He was a good friend to my people and to this day we tell our children about him and show them his old place although there is verily evidence of the once active homestead.

Well on this particular day we were fighting snow to get to YaYas’ camp. I remember feeling worried that my great-grandmother was camping in this cold weather and deep snow. How were they keeping warm, what were they camping in? Finally, we rounded the east end of the lake and onto Wilburs’ road, we came around the last big bend and the Placid Creek Bridge came into view and we could see smoke on the other side coming up out of the Alder Tree stand where the camp was. I could hardly stand it I was so excited. Then all of a sudden down below the bridge there was uncle Pascal, Jerome and Roger. My uncle was swinging a snag line overhead and threw it across the creek then pulled it back to himself. When the line emerged from the water it had many fish connected to the line of hooks. Oh I could hardly stay in the truck. Dad pulled the truck down into camp and I saw the most welcoming sight and it made me feel happy. Remember this is from a child of about eight years old so my surroundings were bigger than life. The snow seemed five feet deep and the wall tent looked huge and everything in camp was nestled together, the wood pile, the drying rack, tent and pickup trucks surrounded by this wall of snow that had been shoveled and piled. I jumped out of the truck and my great-grandmother met me at the door of the wall tent, she gave a quick hug and moved on to the other kids as I was totally pulled into the tent by fascination. Just as I entered the door there was a wood stove on the right and it was going full speed. Off to the side of the stove up against the canvas wall was a small woodpile. The tent had cardboard lining the walls almost to the top of the canvas wall and also on the floor. Each bedroll was up against the wall and everybody that sat in the tent had a comfortable place to sit. To the left of the door was the mini kitchen with its food box and cooking utensils. I felt so cozy I didn’t want to leave when it was time and I begged my dad to let me stay, but I had to go to school. My Tupia reassured me that come summer we would be there again and we would stay all summer. So outside I went to investigate what the fishermen were doing and to see everything there was to see. The men had gathered a large amount of white fish and Jerome and Pascal were gutting fish in preparation for drying as Roger was trying his hand at flinging the snag line across the creek. Try as we may, my brother and I weren’t allowed to go down to the creek and get into the thick of things because of the snow and ice and the possibility we would fall into the water. That only lasted awhile and we were off to the warmth of the tent and to eat smoked fish.”

Advertise with us!
submit to reddit
Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious