Mary Jane Charlo bridges the generations of Bitterroot Salish. She shares the stories and skills she learned from her elders with the youngest members of the tribe, and she finds great joy in seeing them embrace their culture. Mary Jane’s earliest years were spent between Evaro and the St. Ignatius boarding school. Her mother started teaching her to bead when Mary Jane was seven, but she really embraced it when she sat with an elder who taught her to make intricate patterns and capture the stories and knowledge to pass along to the next generations.
Mary Jane Charlo
When her own children and grandchildren were born, Mary Jane made them cradleboards—rare and precious high-elevation sego lilies for one of her granddaughters and wild roses symbolizing the season when the buffalo calves are weaned and the cows are ready to be hunted. This is the time to go over the mountains to look for buffalo. She made it for her first great-grandson and gave him the Indian name Buffalo Head. She told her children the stories that go with the cradleboards, giving them treasures to keep forever and pass down through the family. Today, Mary Jane teaches at the language nest, helping the newest generations of Bitterroot Salish learn the language and the heritage of their ancestors. She’s doing her part to pass it on and keep it alive. She thinks one of the best ways to help is to keep the elders healthy.