Tanna Engdahl: “We Accepted the Challenge.”

Tanna Engdahl talks about working with what the Creator gave the Cowlitz and the art of weaving and canoe making.

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.


But I think of our prairies as a gift to us and another reason why we couldn’t leave. We couldn’t leave what the creator had given us. We were salmon and cedar people. It was like the Creator [said], “I will give you this if you work with me.” We accepted the challenge. We worked with the Creator. And we excelled at everything he gave us. He gave us cedar which was the basis of our lodging, our clothing, our transport, our utensils. We learned the basket weaving, we probably had the finest artisans of basketry creation in this whole territory. Our baskets were so finely woven with such great skill we could cook in them. We had plenty of basket stew. We had plenty of transport luggage made from cedar and our fine fine weaving. I think we excelled at everything that was here as a gift of the Creator. We excelled in canoe making. We excelled in cedar weaving to such a point that we wove cedar to the fine points that it was rainwear. This hat is cedar and it sheds rain. When we’re out in our ceremonies we still have our cedar hats. And it’s a blessing to see our young women coming back to the weaving and teaching our toddlers to weave, our youth to weave. That was lost to us for a long time.

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