If you go
What: Methow Valley Interpretive Center
Exhibits: TB Charley exhibit to run through next summer
Where: At TwispWorks, 502 S. Glover St., Twisp
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. In late October, hours curtailed to noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Closed: Mid-November to April
TWISP — Terry Charley remembers coming home to Malott, tired after his long days at work when he was a young man some 30 years ago. And his father, TB Charley would talk, on and on, about the old ways.
“He’d talk for three or four hours,” Charley said.
At the time, it felt almost like an endurance test.
But now, he cherishes those evenings with his dad, the last full-blood Methow Indian who died in 2005. “As I got older, I got to understand why he was talking. He was passing the words down,” the younger Charley said.
A descendant of Methow chiefs, TB Charley was born in Malott where his family was allotted land, and spent most of his life there. He served in the U.S. Army, farmed alfalfa and raced horses at local fairs.
He also served two terms on the Colville Business Council in the 1950s and 1960s, where he fought an effort to terminate the Colville Indian Reservation and reimburse members of the confederated tribes for its value.
A new display at the Methow Valley Interpretive Center in Twisp honors the Charley family, and TB Charley as the last of a small band of American Indians pushed out of the Methow Valley more than a century ago.
Some of his children and relatives came to see that display on Sunday, and to hear Andrew Joseph Sr. — who is part Methow — share stories from his book, “The Country of Sen-om-tuse: Growing Up the Traditional Colville-Okanogan Way.”
The event drew about 70 people.
Carolyn Schmekel, the interpretive center’s director, said the Charley family — and a vest given to her by TB Charley’s widow, Pearl — helped inspire the center, operated by volunteers.
The Foster Grandparent Program of the Colville Tribes made the Eagle vest and gave it to Charley decades ago, and his widow decided when he died that he would want it displayed in the Methow Valley, so she gave it to Schmekel.
Schmekel said there was really no place to put it, until they opened the interpretive center at TwispWorks last year.
She and her husband, Glenn, met the Charley family after starting an annual powwow in Twisp in an effort to mend the past with tribal people who lost their homeland when a presidential executive order removed the Methow Valley from the original Colville Indian Reservation in 1872.
She said the powwow may fade away as they grow older, unless someone else steps in to organize the annual event. “We realized we need a permanent place to honor the people who lived here,” she said. “The idea was to say, ‘There still are Methow people, and there are descendants.’ We wanted to share about their life, what they did,” she said.
Pearl Charley died before her wish to see the vest displayed was fulfilled. But, Schmekel said, thanks to her gift, the interpretive center was developed, and will continue to tell the story of the Methow people.
In addition to Terry, two of Charley’s daughters attended Sunday’s event: Marianne and Harriet.
Marianne remembered coming to the Methow Valley often with her family, and while the men hunted, the women gathered roots and berries. They covered their heads with bandanas to show respect for the earth. It was a way of thanking her for providing food.
Terry said even though his father never lived in the Methow, it was always a special place for him. Several years ago, he said, he asked his father where he wanted to go for his birthday.
“He wanted to come up here to the Methow. He wanted to walk on this ground once more, to walk with his ancestors,” he said.
Charley said since realizing the importance of his father’s stories, he has been writing them down in notebooks, as they come back to him.
“I remember his words and recorded it in my heart,” he said. Although he has no children to share them with, he hopes one day to share what he has written — maybe even as part of his father’s display at the Methow Valley Interpretive Center.