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CSKT artist wins national fellowship for cultural bearers

Claire Charlo is one of 12 to receive the Cultural Capital Fellowship
Claire Charlo receives support from First Peoples Fund
Posted at 9:53 AM, Feb 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 11:53:22-05

PABLO — For Claire Charlo, of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, quilting is a connection to her past, her family, and her culture.

She'll now carry on the tradition as the recipient of a grant supporting cultural bearers in Native American communities.

“I feel like making sure that this knowledge is passed down as part of our identity, preserving our identity and who we are as Indigenous people, and we aren't going to maintain that identity if we don't share it and continue to pass it on," Charlo told MTN News.

Claire Charlo receives support from First Peoples Fund

Charlo will sew new quilting seeds with support from First Peoples Fund, a South Dakota-based nonprofit. The First Peoples Fund hosts rounds of annual fellowships for Native artists all over the U.S. to apply to.

"The Cultural Capital Fellowship recognizes Native artists who are interested in sustaining the cultural fabric of their community. Again, it is critical that our culture and ancestral knowledge are passed on from one generation to the next," said Dr. Rachael Nez, First Peoples Fund Program Manager of Fellowships.

This year Charlo is one of 12 to receive the Cultural Capital Fellowship - the first time she’s ever applied.

"One of the things that really stood out in her application, according to the panelists, was her enthusiasm," Dr. Nez explained, "she's a lawyer and as I was reading through her application, you know, she talked about going through law school...but she found that being an artist and sharing this traditional knowledge was something that, you know, was really something that was of importance to her."

With funds to purchase machines and materials, Claire will teach classes - for free - either in Pablo or Dixon. After about 10 hours or so of learning, each student will have their very own Star Blanket.

“The star really represents new life, new beginnings, you generally are given a Star Blanket when you graduate from college, you get an extra blanket when you have a new baby," Charlo explained, telling MTN News the pattern stems back generations, that she learned from her mother, who learned from her mother-in-law.

Now, Charlo will start her own new beginning as she weaves the cultural fabric for future generations in her community.