Charlene’s birth tribe was her mother’s tribe the Colville Confederated Tribes until she relinquished to join her father’s tribe in 1975 after the Boldt Decision. It is from her mother’s ancestry she has cultural connections to the Confederated Tribes Coliville, Yakima and Nez Perce’. Charlene is an enrolled tribal member of the Squaxin Island Tribe-Medicine Creek Nation, her cultural family lineage goes back several thousands of years. It is through her father’s ancestral lineage she has cultural heritage with the Medicine Creek Nation of the Squaxin, Nisqually and Puyallup Tribes. Her father was dual enrolled with the Squaxin and Puyallup and professed ancestral lineage to several other NW Tribes too.
After the Judge Boldt historical ruling in 1974 affirming the reserved rights to harvest salmon for Squaxin Island Tribe, she became a Tribal fisherperson navigating the ancestral marine waters of her people in various boats. Her brothers and family members taught her how to construct salmon gear, tidal flow and science of all things connected. With the years of experience of traveling on the marine waters she easily understood the importance of the resurgence of the canoe way of life:.
Charlene was one of the key people to implement canoe journeys for the Squaxin Island tribe. March 1994 Squaxin hosted one of the first canoe journeys at Percival Landing called “Healing of the Waters” over five thousand people came to witness the water ceremony as Salish canoes visually and audibly came in with their Salish songs and canoes. The Heiltsuk canoe came from a small fishing village from the First Nation people of Canada, they brought their sacred waters for the water ceremony. From the North to the South Squaxin is culturally connected to the NW Tribes through the yearly canoe Journeys.
The responsibility of the yearly canoe journey resides at the MLRC, metaphorically the canoe has been the vehicle to bring back the language, songs, dance, artwork, foods/medicine and ancient teachings. At the MLRC the mission is to educate and empower the people.
Charlene has served her people in different capacities all the while sharing the cultural knowledge and history of the Squaxin Island people. She has been a volunteer on numerous boards, committees, commissions and is the executive director for the Squaxin Island Tribe Museum Library Research Center and a Tribal Council member of 20 years.