Tanna Engdahl: They Wouldn’t Seat Us, but My Grandmother Stood There Strong

Tanna Engdahl (Cowlitz) talks about dealing with discrimination with her grandmother. 2:42.

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.


“When I was quite young, we went to a restaurant in a town it must have been at a time that Indians were not well received. We went into a restaurant, I was quite young, and we were not seated. So my grandmother stood there and other people came in, white people, and they were seated, until all the tables and chairs and everything was full. And my grandmother still stood there. Still strong. I was old enough to feel the embarrassment. To feel embarrassed somehow, I don’t know how to put it in terms. But she took my hand and her hand signal was stop fidgeting, stand still. And I stood there beside my grandmother and the room became so uncomfortable for the diners that they couldn’t continue eating. They just kind of put down their forks and stared at their plates. They didn’t know what to do because she was still standing there. And when there was total silence she said to me, “Tanna feel sorry for these people. They are not Cowlitz.” In my small brain, growing brain I realized I was Cowlitz. And from that time to even as I sit here now I knew I had the strength of the people that could say that. I am Cowlitz and other people are not. I had all the power I needed to get through my life, which was difficult and there were times when I had to call back on that memory. And remember I could get through anything because I was Cowlitz.”

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