Tanna Engdahl: Planning for Future Generations

Tanna Engdahl about harvesting and not taking too much, in preparation for future generations.

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.


Our early people were people who planned and–I use that word, it was instinctively…It was knowledge at an instinct level of how to prepare for winters. How to prepare for summers. So there was no idleness even though we lived in so much, we learned to harvest that much more to get us through those long periods of winter. So we had planning, we call it to the 7th generation. So we didn’t make a decision based on what was around us at this moment. We thought of how it would affect our children and grandchildren in a future that we would never know. The people that we would never know but they were going to be our descendants. So we planned for them. So we were careful. We were careful how we used these marvelous resources that were all around us, in terms of harvesting we always left something. We even–right up to the time of my grandfathers–we’d take maybe 7 and put 1 back in the water. And I don’t know why 7, my grandfather used 7. But he would take 7 smelt and as he was going through he’d put one back. And the rest were taken to be smoked, or fried immediately in my lifetime. But we never took all of the deer, we never took all of the elk. We took basically those that we felt were coming to an end. And we wanted the young to live and that’s how we always thought, no matter what the animal was.

Related Content