I Am Indigenous

I Am Indigenous

Author’s Note: “Native Americans are considered to be the first Americans to live in and populate the United States. By the time the first explorers and settlers arrived from Europe, Native Americans had populated the entire North American continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to the northern reaches of Canada. In 1968, Governor Ronald Reagan signed a resolution calling for a holiday called “American Indian Day”, to be held the Fourth Friday in September. In 1998, the California Assembly declared “Native American Day” as an official state holiday, observed annually on the fourth Friday in September in the state of California.” (From http://www.calendar-365.com/holidays/native-american-day.html)


I Am Indigenous

By Richard D. Iyall, Cowlitz

I am indigenous to this land. Yes, I am. Indigenous I am.

I am a member of the Cowlitz Tribe, whose sacred land

is under siege in Washington, the state. Our people have survived.

I am descended from a Cowlitz Chief. Scanewa was his name.

He was a hunter, fisherman, a trader and a guide.

He ruled the western trading route, the Cowlitz River passageway

from the mighty river to the south, Columbia, to Puget Sound up in the north.

Scanewa ruled all tribes along the Cowlitz River zone in 1828.

The Northwest Company was gone. When Hudson Bay

had gotten charter rights they came to Chief Scanewa then to get support

to trade along the route. The Cowlitz Chief Scanewa also helped the U.S. Army find a site

on which to build a fort. From Fort Vancouver to the south

he took some soldiers up the river to a site up north

in Canada. Fort Langley came to be there thanks to guidance from our chief.

An ambush by a Klallam group, a lynch mob to be sure,

then wrongly killed the “chief of chiefs”, Scanewa, courier.

Before Scanewa met his death in 1828 he had three sons.

A son named Richard Sinnaywah is where I got my name.

Scanewa’s murder left this son too young to take the rein.

But as he grew, he did become a chief called Tyee Dick. The Cowlitz tribe,

the Squally tribe, Puyallup tribes he ruled; and in each tribe he also had a wife.

Iyall Wahawa was another son. He spread religion to the land.

He was an “Indian Shaker” priest in what we called Tshad-dam.

His children took his first name as their last name at that time.

He thus was honored to this day by those who came from him.

Iyall had a son named Frank; his only son with sons.

He was the Cowlitz delegate and carried on the name.

Scanewa had another son, the Head Chief of the Cowlitz, too;

a Shaker priest and leader of the Cowlitz sect, beloved man, so true.

His name was Atwin Stockum and he set the paradigm.

Dear Atwin lived to a hundred and two. But he was not yet through!

“Atwin died last night”, a friendly immigrant named Harold Otho Stone

had heard one day, while working in his store. A Shaker preacher man

from Idaho had given him the news. It saddened Stone to hear about the passing

of the chief. “Oh that’s all right” the preacher said. They planned

to bring him back to life that very afternoon! The Shaker priest from Idaho,

an “Indian” invited Stone to see. No other white man was invited there. But Stone

had always been a friend those called “Indians”.

“You never laugh at us”, the Shaker preacher man had said. Stone

would be welcome there at Atwin’s home, but under one condition:

“Don’t bring anyone with you.”

A resurrection ritual was held for Atwin’s soul. A ceremony to be held

in private was performed on him by people of the land. In 1907, about a hundred people came,

including Atwin’s brother Iyall. They held a ceremony in Atwin’s home

in Washington, to bring him back to life when he had died

the night before! They loved their chief.

They didn’t want to see him go just yet.

A Nez Perce man named Paddy White came up to resurrect!

He moved with dignity though wearing clothing that the white men had cast off.

They prayed for Atwin to return to live on Earth again. They rang large bells and offered chants.

They let their bodies move with dance.

The room was packed with souls, those visible and not,

as sounds got loud and louder, the tempo got fast and faster in a ceremony form.

Emotions grew from people’s hearts and got increasingly intense. The house

was charged with strong and rhythmic energy. High voltage energy

from Spirit grew until it reached its peak. At that point Paddy raised his arms

in supplication as people completed their prayers and waited.

Slowly the body of Atwin relaxed from the rigor mortis which had set in. The skin regained

Its color, from pale, almost translucent, to its normal color of wrinkled bronze

and Atwin’s breath returned. His heart began to beat again.

His body moved upon its own as Atwin made it clear that he would live again,

by sitting up. The people’s wishes were fulfilled for Atwin to return to life, incarnate

on this Earth again. Just two days later he walked, unaided,

from his home to the village two miles away. He lived again

for five more years until the year of 1912. Indigenous I am.

We are not through with life. We are not through with this land. The culture of the area

was rooted in the land. Though conquered by the immigrants,

Our sacred culture has not disappeared. It lives and grows each day.

Are you listening, dear brothers and sisters to what I say?

Do you feel the anxiety of Gaia, our sacred Mother Earth? Do you feel the vibration

of the sun? Is your heart now and your mind now awakening to truth?

Indigenous I am.


Richard D. Iyall is a volunteer journalist/photographer for the Community Alliance.




  • Community Alliance

    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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