Tanna Engdahl: An “Intrinsic Knowledge” of Trade

Tanna Engdahl discusses trading with tribes upriver.

Bio: Tanna Engdahl is a Cowlitz Elder and spiritual leader. She is also an associate supervisor of the Clark Conservation District and a board member with the Friends of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Her past career has included work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, working as Public Affairs Chief for both NPS and Bureau of Land Management. She is the founder of the Cowlitz Medicine Women.


We had villages up and down just about all of the river systems along any, even the Columbia. And in those villages, it was a self-sustaining village and again we had our ceremonies in a particular village, we did our harvesting and gathering and so forth. But we also–besides what we needed–if we didn’t have what was needed we traded for it. So understood basically what the upriver tribes wanted. They were plateau people, they were in a drier country so they didn’t have our resources, their lodging was different and their clothing was different. Their clothing required buckskin where we needed cedar. So we had what we needed. We would harvest the things that would be needed upriver and maybe even downriver to the mouth of the Columbia, which all of our tributary rivers fed into. And we had an intrinsic knowledge of what was needed and what we could trade for. We probably wanted some things from the upriver tribe and we would trade our marvelous pelts, beaver, we could fashion some of our huge elk pieces into a piece that they would want upriver. We, you know in the salmon season when the salmon runs, coming in strong in the spring and the fall, all the people would go to the rivers and that included the upriver people. They were salmon people. And we would harvest an amount, so we didn’t need to go to say Celilo Falls for salmon because we had salmon in our backyard. But remember our families had moved in marriage patterns were such that we had families upriver and we had families downriver. So when we went to visit we brought gifts or things we could trade for.

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