Dave Barnett., Chairman, Cowlitz Indian Tribe

General Council Chairman


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Dave has dedicated his life to serving the Cowlitz tribe. Growing up in Aberdeen, Dave ran track and cross county in high school. His hard work on the track earned him a scholarship to the University of Washington. At UW, Dave earned a degree in Communications and graduated in 1984.

Throughout his life, Dave watched his father, former Cowlitz Chairman, John Barnett tirelessly fight for our tribe. Some of Dave’s earliest memories center around riding in his dad’s pickup truck, on their way to attend one of those “Indian meetings.” Once he was older, Dave would overhear the early morning calls John would have in his efforts to achieve federal recognition for the Cowlitz people. These are the foundational memories that solidified Dave’s commitment to our tribe.

There were many setbacks in the process to gain federal recognition. But one thing stood out to Dave the most—his dad’s unwavering inner strength and tenacity. Traits that Dave has himself. Much like his father, once he puts his mind to something, he’ll work tirelessly to get it done.

That’s why, on the day that federal recognition finally came, Dave got in his truck and drove down to the B.I.A. office in Portland, OR. Once there, he submitted the tribe’s fee-to-trust application, which we know now as the Cowlitz Reservation and ilani Casino and Resort.

Dave risked his life savings and financial future to purchase the land where our reservation now stands. But he did so at his father’s urging, knowing that they both didn’t want to let any Cowlitz down.

In the following decades, Dave has continued to make it his life’s work to help our tribe. He brought in The Language Conservancy to help preserve and grow our tribal languages so we can teach our children our native tongue. As a way of building transparency, Dave established No Cowlitz Left Behind so all Cowlitz have access to the actions of Tribal Council.

As Chair, Dave is committed to ensuring all Cowlitz are valued equally.


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