Tanna Engdahl: We Are a Mobile People

Tanna Engdahl talks about the Cowlitz were in constant movement and used canoes and the rivers to travel.

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.


You’ve got to remember that in these major strongholds–I talked about the upper and the lower and the Lewis River–we were a mobile people. And as you will hear from others about our meandering marriage patterns we were a people that drew strength from a lot of different areas with our marriages. But what I think that is not clear in history is how we could get anywhere. Of course, we had many different trails that we could cross mountains and…but we had the rivers. We had rivers that we could fly on. Or take as much time as we wanted. We were excellent canoe people. We could navigate on an ocean or a drop of water. We built the canoes that we needed and we could go anywhere we needed to go because of that. Whatever river system we could go right to the head waters, we could downstream, we could go to the mighty Columbia. We could go to the ocean. We could cross any kind of water. My grandmother tells of a time when her father went to what is now British Columbia. Partly on land, partly on a canoe, because they needed a particular kind of supplies, they wanted supplies. So we were very mobile people and it was constant, it was constant movement.

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