In Memoriam: Cowlitz Chairman David Barnett

RIDGEFIELD, WA – The Cowlitz Indian Tribe has announced the passing of David Barnett, General Council Chairman of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, who died unexpectedly on May 28th of an apparent heart attack at his home in Shoreline, WA.

Chairman Barnett served as leader of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe since he was elected to the position in June 2021. Barnett dedicated his life to serving the Cowlitz people. He led with passion, deep generosity and an unending commitment to the Cowlitz Tribe. His legacy is one that touched the lives of many.

In accordance with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s succession plan, Chairman Barnett is succeeded by Patty Kinswa-Gaiser, General Council Vice-Chair.

“At this difficult time, the tribe will pull together to honor Dave’s legacy and continue his vision,” said Kinswa-Gaiser.

Chairman Barnett was a lifelong Cowlitz Indian Tribe member and son of the late Cowlitz Chairman, John Barnett, who led the tribe to federal acknowledgement in 2002.

Barnett’s lifelong dedication to the Cowlitz Indian Tribe reflected the values instilled in him by his late father. Over the decades and as General Counsel Chairman, he continued to make advancing the Cowlitz Tribe his life’s work. His initiatives included:

  • Developing The Language Conservancy program to help preserve and grow the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s native tongue
  • Implementing vote-by-mail for tribal elections to ensure that the voices of tribal members both near and far were equally heard
  • Ensuring that all tribal members were able to receive equal distribution of COVID-19 relief funds
  • Striving to provide universal healthcare coverage for all tribal members, no matter where they live
  • Supporting a hardship policy on enrollment that brings dispersed tribal members back to the Cowlitz Indian Tribe
  • Seeking the maximum economic benefits of the casino are distributed equally to all tribal members
  • Honoring his father by giving back more than $500,000 to Cowlitz Indians in need, including disabled Cowlitz Tribe members

Details for a celebration of life will be forthcoming.