Mike Iyall: Cowlitz Marriage Means Interrelated and Poly-Lingual

Mike Iyall (Cowlitz) talks about marriage tradition and taboo among the Cowlitz. 1:14.

Bio: Mike Iyall is a Council member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribal and was Vice Chairman until 2016. He is the director of the Cowlitz Tribe scholarship program and serves as tribal historian.


“I think the best way to start with our history is to describe our marriage tradition. We had a very rigid taboo against marrying a cousin closer than the 7th degree. So from the very beginning you married out and the wife always went to live with the husbands family. But she didn’t leave her family connection so the children of that marriage would go to live with her family for extended visits of a year or more. So these children would grow up learning dad’s language, mom’s language. Perhaps mom’s mother had a language. Dad’s mother might have had another language. So children grew up with four languages and four sets of cultures. Four sets of extended family, from earliest childhood. I try and explain to people that no one was here alone. Everyone was interrelated and so that means everybody was poly-lingual.”

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