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Cowlitz Indian Tribe Announces Return of Ancestral Lands Through 'Landback' Partnership with Capitol Land Trust

At Saturday’s General Council meeting, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe announced that a parcel of ancestral lands in Lewis County has been returned to the Tribe through a “Landback” partnership with Capitol Land Trust, a conservation non-profit and land trust based in Olympia, WA.

Since time immemorial, Cowlitz Indians have inhabited areas from the headwaters of the Southern Cascades to the North and East, to the Willapa Hills of the East, and lowland areas along the Columbia River to the South. With vast amounts of land taken from the tribe and given to White settlers in the 19th century, the “Landback” announcement received an emotional response from attendees at the General Council meeting.

“This is a momentous day for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and our members,” said General Council Chair Patty Kinswa-Gaiser. “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. 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 lands returned to Cowlitz Indian Tribe ownership through this initiative had been privately held before eventually being acquired by Capitol Land Trust for general conservation purposes. Earlier this year, Capitol Land Trust board of directors voted unanimously to return the lands 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,” shares Capitol Land Trust Executive Director Dave Winter. “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.”

The Cowlitz Indian Tribe hopes that Saturday’s announcement will inspire interest in and support for the larger Landback movement that seeks to return Indigenous lands to Indigenous hands.

“I truly believe this is only the beginning of our efforts to bring Cowlitz Indian Tribal lands back home,” said Kinswa-Gaiser. “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,” said Kinswa-Gaiser.

General Council Meeting Pictures

Cowlitz Landback taken at ilani Ballroom 11-4-2023


About Cowlitz Indian Tribe

We, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, are the Forever People. Since the beginning of time, we have nurtured our community by stewarding our lands and rivers, investing in our people and culture, and promoting self-determination and prosperity for future generations. Our mission is to preserve and honor the legacy of our elders and ancestors by empowering a tribal community that promotes social justice and economic well-being, secures aboriginal lands, respects culture and sovereignty, and fosters justice, freedom, and mutual welfare. More information can be found at


About the Landback Movement

The Indigenous Landback movement advocates for the return of ancestral lands to Indigenous communities. Rooted in the recognition of historical injustices such as colonization, forced displacement, and broken treaties, the Landback movement asserts the rights of Indigenous peoples to reclaim and steward their traditional territories. The movement emphasizes the importance of respecting Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination, challenging the prevailing narrative of dispossession and working towards a more inclusive and respectful coexistence.

For more information about the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s Landback efforts, please email


About Capitol Land Trust

At Capitol Land Trust we strategically conserve vital natural areas within the south Puget Sound watersheds and Chehalis Basin. We prioritize properties with estuaries, marine shorelines, wetlands, rivers and riparian areas and associated forests because of the crucial role they play in supporting the health and vitality of wildlife habitats as well as our communities. The high standard of our work has earned national accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.

Natural open spaces and properly functioning ecosystems are essential to the exceptional quality of life we enjoy in our region. We’re working to keep it that way. Forever. Learn more at


The legacy of an ancient people in southwest Washington is rich with descendants who manage a growing portfolio of health, education, scientific research, housing, transportation, development, elder care, conservation and legal issues. The Cowlitz Tribe is a growing force in community building in what are now Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis and parts of Pierce, Skamania and Wahkiakum Counties, a vast territory occupied by numerous Cowlitz villages prior to non-Cowlitz exploration and seizure. Today, an elected Tribal Council is composed of professionals adept at managing multiple programs and projects.