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 mean, literally, the professor I talked about, Robert Boyd, who wrote a book called the Coming of the Spirit of Pestilance. It talks about the disease and the impact on native people. I participated in the Lewis and Clark commemoration for our tribe and I went back to Sioux country. And we were back there and they were talking about the impact of disease and one person says we lost 20 percent, another person says we lost 30 percent, and I said well you’re so lucky you got off so easy. And then I told them about our story and truly it’s only when you realize it’s a hundred year span–and there were rebounds. You know, the six hundred, which is two percent of thirty thousand, it was worse than that. It actually became a barrier when Stevens had his men out, Indian agents out negotiating with us. Trying to buy our land, trying to barter with us and this Indian agent is trying to impress on this one man how we’re going to take care of you. The agent says well I’m going to give you this today and then I’ll give you a little bit more next year, I’m not going to just quit you. And the man said well couldn’t you just give it all to me now, because I’ll probably be gone by then. And the Indian agent writes that he was. So this sense of fatalism, it impacted how we would think in some ways.”