Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

Yaya’s Trunk: Stories from past

“My Godmother and Godfather”

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.

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.

“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 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 is by Felix Antoine Fisher, Jr.

This story happened on a day in April. Our family was visiting my Yaya in Hamilton. On that day Sx?epe? asked dad if they could take me with them to Arlee. Dad didn’t care. Later that day Sx?epe? and Yaya loaded up the truck and we headed to Arlee.

My Sx?epe?, Sam Vinson, at this time was caretaking the Hamilton dump.

Sx?epe? would gather stuff to sell. Things like lead, brass, copper, and whatever else he thought he could sell. Sx?epe? asked Yaya if she wanted to stop at the Stevensville dump, so we did. We must have spent about three or four hours looking around. By the time we headed to Missoula it was getting dark. Yaya said that we will spend the night. We camped close to the river.

My Yaya, Susan Finley-Vinson, loved to camp out when she had the time. The next morning she made breakfast, and then we broke camp and went to town. Sx?epe? was looking for a place to sell his things, Yaya wanted to shop for shoes, pants and a shirt for me. After spending most of the day in Missoula we headed to Arlee.

That evening at Yaya’s home, she made me take a bath. After the bath she said I could go outside and play, but don’t get dirty. I came in about dark and went to bed.

When I awoke the next morning, Sx?epe? told me that we are going to church at the mission. My Yaya had my clothes ready. She had gotten me a white shirt, black pants, and black shoes. After I was ready she got dressed. Sx?epe? had gotten dressed before us. We headed to the church. We got there about an hour later. I walked hand in hand with my Grandparents into church. We sat up front; I just did whatever my sx?epe? did. Yaya told him to take me down so I could receive communion. It was a long time before the mass was over. The people started to leave but not us, we waited to the right side of the church. Father came over to us. He asked Yaya the name. She said, "Antoine." Then the father put a ribbon on each of my shoulders, then he dipped his finger in the bowl, made a cross on my forehead, then said, "The church baptize thee Antoine."

On that day, Easter Sunday, nineteen hundred and forty six, my Yaya became my God-mother and Sam Vinson became my God-father.”

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