Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

Yaya’s Trunk: Stories from past

“Yaya Sisterhood”
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 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. One of the announcers hollered at me over the drums. 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 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 Jenny Fowler, called “Yaya Sisterhood.”

My story starts in the early spring months of 2006, this is a story of how a group of women came together to teach and learn and pass on the ways of our people and to honor the strength of women. While I was working with this group of amazing beautiful Salish women at Nkwusm, I was intimidated and a little scared of the things that I didn’t know. These women were very knowledgeable and able to speak the Salish language and had stories of how things used to be ‘The good old days.’ It took a few months for all of us to get used of each other and grow a trusting and respectful relationship. In this process I had to learn that you didn’t really get asked to participate/work; you were expected to jump in and help, and really try not to get in the way of others as they worked. During this time, I had gotten the opportunity to learn how to debone a buffalo; and how to roll out meat for making dry meat.

Before long we were jumping in the van together and cruising up the Jocko and through Ravalli creek range and valleys for the things that were needed to be gathered/harvested at that specific time of the year. Whether we were taking fieldtrips with the students or just going on our own there was always a story and everyone was filled with gratitude for this bountiful place we call home.

That same summer while gathering camas in Evaro, we had on our old grubbies and we were all muddy and laughing having a good time when one of these women said this is a sisterhood, a yaya sisterhood. We all agreed that this was a fitting name for this group of women, and how we enjoyed this time together. We continue to do what our mothers, and grandmothers did, and so on in a lineage of strong Indian women that had come together to do for their children, families, and tribe.

I had learned a lot from these women and cherish my time spent with them. I now think about things differently, I try to be prepared before I go into the mountains or any time I am traveling. I save containers and different things such as cloth that may be useful for when I go gathering with my family. Some of the best memories/stories I hear from people I know are when they had been out camping, fishing, hunting, huckleberry picking and gathering with their friends and family. My hope is that our children will continue to enjoy the great outdoors and have these same enjoyable moments as we have had; that we will continue to be people of the land, and that we continue to be respectful of the earth and all that is provi To all the women in my life whom have encouraged and inspired me and to the women in this story you know who you are. I would just like to thank you for these moments for your patience, which has taught me to be a strong woman today.”

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