"The second annual John Barnett Memorial Traditional Inter-Tribal Canoe Races this past weekend at Mayfield Lake were much more than a competition to see who could “pull” their canoe fastest around the lake course.
The Cowlitz Indian Tribe were and rightfully continue to be a proud people. They historically lived in the Cowlitz and Lewis river basins, and were highly respected, self-sufficient and well integrated into the new frontier. Students of Pacific Coast Native American history will understand how that contributed to them not having an established reservation within their traditional lands, centered in much of Lewis County.
John Barnett was the chair of the tribe for three decades. He had a vision for his people. He died last summer, but his influence has not waned. He fought hard to win formal recognition for the Cowlitz to be an autonomous tribe. Born in 1934, he was a larger-than-life, big-in-stature and deep-in-voice leader, the Cowlitz Tribe’s voice in a time when it fought for federal recognition.
“No one leader in modern history has been able to accomplish what he accomplished with the tribe,” said Bill Iyall, the vice chairman who served under Barnett as recorded in a newspaper report. “I think his role was the key — he virtually carried (recognition) on his back. He testified in hearings, using his own funds to go to D.C. many times.”
He will go down as a major leader for his tribe. The canoe races were important to Barnett as he hoped to bond his current people with their past.
Barnett would have been proud this past weekend."
Get the Story:
Our Views: Cowlitz Canoe Races Reveal Pride of Tribe
(The Centralia Chronicle 9/15)
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