Tanna Engdahl: Cowlitz Had to Prove We Were Here, so “We Did.”

Tanna Engdahl (Cowlitz) talks about the adoption of written language and its use in gaining tribal recognition. 2:48.

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 learned to write, keep records, write testimonies, affidavits. That became quite valuable in the years to come when we had to come back and fight for our standing, a thing called recognition. Isn’t that amazing? We were here all these centuries and then in our own land we had to fight to be recognized. As a people, a people who built highways on our trails. A people who built ports on our landing sites. A people who took our resources for their own wealth building. And then tell us we don’t recognize you. You have to prove to us that you were ever here. So in the Cowlitz Tamanwas tradition we did. We built and documented in such a way that we wore the government down. They couldn’t deny, they couldn’t find an excuse any longer and they had these burdens and burdens–it probably became burdensome to them–we gave them all the different documentation process that they require to be recognized. And when that happened, I don’t think we ever looked back. Today–today as I sit here in my own lifetime, we not only have regained our name as a tribe, in our own land where we lived, but we have become the greatest economic engine in Clark County, maybe these whole territory.”

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