What I’m All About
My name is Roy Wilson. I am an enrolled member of the Cowlitz Indian tribe. I was born with an Indian father and a non-Indian mother. I have Cowlitz blood, Chinook blood, Yakama blood, and Iroquois blood.
In my tribe, I served for thirty-two years on the tribal council, almost a third of a century. I served as Chairman of the General Council in the 1970s, and in the later years as Chairman of the Tribal Council. I also for many years have served as the tribal spiritual leader in the old tribal traditional ways.
When I am called to speak to different kinds of groups my topic depends on the type of group I am speaking to. For example, when the Women Engineers of America called on me to speak to them, I talked about our Indian cliff dwellings—five, six-story high cliff dwellings in New York—and that same period of time had their tallest buildings were two stories. Our Indian engineers were superb, and our Indian irrigation systems in the Southwest and numerous other Indian engineering feats of interest.
When I’m in high schools, colleges, or universities and I’m speaking to psychology classes, I may speak about Indian shamanism, whereas if I’m talking to history classes, I may be talking about pre-White contact culture, post-White contact, and the current demise.
What I do with the different areas in speaking depends on the group that I am talking to. When I go to most places, like for example, if I go to churches and speak in churches, I may come right out and let them know that, though the Great White Father had played his role in the oppression of Native Americans, the greatest oppressor of the Indian people ever had has been the Christian Church. Then I go on to tell them about similarities and dissimilarities between the Native cultures and Christianity.
Most of my time is spent in colleges, universities, churches, and some groups from different origins who want to know about the Medicine Wheel. I find that the Medicine Wheel—many times what I do, I tell them that the group that I’m there to talk to—I tell them that there are ancient Indian legends that say, “In time the White man will call for the Indian to bring healing to them.” I believe that the healing for the world will come through the Indian Medicine Wheel and its teachings.
When I give the teachings of the Medicine Wheel I show the similarities between these teachings and the teachings of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and the teachings of Brahma. What has happened is that these people, after I give an introduction from one night a week for six weeks, many times want to go more deeply into the teachings. Some of these have been meeting for ten, eleven, and twelve years now. From one group it grew to two, and three and four, to where now there are twenty of these groups, and we now call them Clans of the Medicine Wheel Tribe—Twenty Clans of the Medicine Wheel Tribe, and it’s gone international.
We started here in the Puget Sound area where we currently have well about a dozen of these groups—one in Yakama, five on the East Coast, and one in Ireland and it just keeps spreading out wider and wider. The people here move to other parts of the world and take the teachings with them and start groups there. I believe that the healing for the world in its diversity will find unity through our Indian teachings, the healing that is there.
That’s basically my life as a storyteller and teacher. Many of the teachings come through ancient legends and so we tell our stories. Most of the time I’m telling legends from my own tribe, though now and then I use legends from other tribes depending on the situation or the interest of the group that I’m speaking to. That basically tells who I am and what I’m all about.
Roy Wilson, Itswwot Wawa Hyiu, a bear who talks much, was born on the Yakama Indian Reservation and is an enrolled member of the Cowlitz tribe. He lives in Chimacum, Washington with his wife, Cherilyn. Together they have eight children. Roy has fourteen grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren.
Roy completed courses of study at Central Bible Institute and Seminary, Drury College, Southern California Bible College, Southern Oregon College of Education, The University of Oregon, Spokane Community College, Whitworth College, Olympic College, and St. Paul School of Theology. He served in Pastoral ministries for forty-seven years before retiring. He pastored churches in Missouri, Southern California, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and British Columbia.
He has served in the following capacities: chairman of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe General Council and chairman of the Tribal Council, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Small Tribes Organization of Western Washington, member of Washington State Governor’s Indian Advisory Committee, member of the National Board of Directors of the Coalition of Indian Controlled School Boards, tribal representative to the National Congress of American Indians and the Affiliated Tribes of NW Indians, secretary for the executive committee of the Native American International Caucus of the United Methodist Church, chairman of the Inter-ethnic Caucus of the Pacific NW Conference of the United Methodist Church, chairman of the Native American Ministries Committee of the Pacific NW Conference of the United Methodist Church, member of the Board of Managers of St. Paul School of Theology, faculty member of L.I.F.E. Bible College of Canada, faculty member of CommUniversity of Tacoma, Native American representative on the Religious Advisory Committee foe the Washington State Board of Corrections, member of the Native American Task Force of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, member of the Board of Directors of the National United Methodist Native American Center, member of the Board of Directors for the Kitsap County Indian Center, member of the Native American Advisory Committee for the United Methodist Publishing House, and a community member of the editorial board of the Bremerton Sun. Today he is proud to be a member of the Washington State Board on Geographic Names.
Among Roy’s books that have been published are Medicine Wheels – Ancient Teachings for Modern Times, The Gospel According to Matthew – A Longhouse Version, Native American Annotated Bibliography, Voices From the Earth Mother, Historical Overview of the Cowlitz Tribe, The Catholic Ladder, and Native American Legends, A Native American Liberation Theology, Legends of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and Cheholtz and Mary Kiona of the Cowlitz Tribe. Publishers are also, at present, considering the possibility of publishing a series of his children’s stories about an Indian boy named Kaboto Wapoos.
Roy serves as the tribe’s traditional spiritual leader, the tribal shaman, a storyteller, and in a great tribal ceremony and ritual, he was named tribal chief in 2001. He does beadwork and carving. One of his beadwork pieces has one-third million beads. It is a non-Indian cross-cultural picture, The Last Supper. He enjoys participating in pow wow dancing and songs. He presents to all age groups and includes issues involving the environment, health and healing, tribal government, and tribal politics. Currently, he presents seminars on The Medicine Wheel and Native American Spirituality.
PO Box 957
Chimacum, WA 98325