‘Momentous day’: Land in Lewis County returned to Cowlitz Indian Tribe


An ancestral piece of Cowlitz Indian Tribal land in Lewis County was returned to the tribe through a “Landback” partnership with the Capitol Land Trust.

In a news release last week, General Council Chair Patty Kinswa-Gaiser said the partnership was a “momentous day for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and our members.”

The release does not state the size of the piece of land or what part of the county the land is in.

“The Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s heritage has a direct and inseparable link to our ancestral lands. Reclaiming this land allows our people to continue our cultural and traditional practices while teaching those lessons to the next generation of Cowlitz Indians,” Kinswa-Gaiser said. “While all native populations remain deeply impacted by the history of stolen lands, today’s announcement is an important step in the right direction.”

The tribe announced the acquisition during a General Council meeting on Saturday, Nov. 4. The executive board from the Capitol Land Trust, a conservation nonprofit based in Olympia, voted earlier this year to return the land to the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.

“As original stewards of the land, the Cowlitz tribe is a vital partner in our shared goal of conservation and we are honored to be a part of this process,” Capitol Land Trust Executive Director Dave Winter said in a statement. “Transferring ownership of this land to the Cowlitz tribe is an expression of our commitment to fulfill our mission of connecting people and conserving land. This action not only ensures that the land will be stewarded for generations to come but also strengthens the relationship between two groups who care deeply about the health of the land in our region.”

According to the release, the “landback” movement is an effort to return ancestral land to indigenous communities. According to the nonprofit Nature Conservancy, a 9,243-acre ranch in Okanogan County was returned to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in October 2021.

For Cowlitz Tribal leadership, the Nov. 4 announcement was “only the beginning of our efforts to bring Cowlitz Indian Tribal lands back home.”

“We look forward to exploring new opportunities and partnerships that advance our mission of stewarding our lands and rivers for the self-determination and prosperity of our tribal members and future generations,” Kinswa-Gaiser said.