Iyall to focus on health as he steps down as Cowlitz Tribe chair

Philip Harju was sworn in as new chair on Aug. 17

After working six, seven days a week for years for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, William Iyall said it was time for a change.

Iyall, the chairman of the tribe, stepped down as general councilor chair and COO. His last day was Aug. 17.

William Iyall resigned as general councilor chair and COO of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe. Iyall was chair for more than 12 years and instrumental in the opening of the ilani Casino. Photo by Mike Schultz
William Iyall resigned as general councilor chair and COO of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe. Iyall was chair for more than 12 years and instrumental in the opening of the ilani Casino. Photo by Mike Schultz

“I can now focus on my health and my family at home for the remainder of the pandemic,” Iyall said in a press release. “At the age of 73, after working for nearly 60 years, it is time for me to begin a new chapter in my life.”

Philip Harju, who has been vice-chair since 2008, was sworn in as councilor chair and COO on Aug. 17.

As chairman for more than 12 years, and with 28 years total in working for the tribe, Iyall was instrumental in the planning, building and the running of Ilani, the casino/entertainment center in Ridgefield. 

“I have had the great fortune to receive the support of my tribe to be reelected as Tribal Chairman four times since 2008,” he said. “It has been an honor to serve as chairman during a time of growth and resurgence of the Cowlitz people during the past 12 years.”

Iyall said he plans to continue serving as the vice president of the Cowlitz Tribal Gaming Authority.

Other highlights from his time as chairman include:

  • Appointed by then governor Gary Locke to the Lewis and Clark 200-year Commemoration Commission.
  • Served as delegate to eight White House Tribal Leader Conferences, and testifying before congress on tribal land issues. “I shook hands with GWB (George W. Bush) and high-fived Barack Obama,” Iyall proudly says. 
  • Iyall helped progress the tribe’s delivery of services, including housing, health clilnics, and more. The general government went from 62 employees in 2008 to 370. Close to 1,500 are employed at Ilani.

“I am very proud of the efforts of our dedicated and loyal staff … and am grateful for their commitment to working diligently serving our tribal community,” Iyall said. “There is much that has been accomplished and much more yet that needs to be accomplished.”

Harju called it an “honor” to serve with Iyall. And while Iyall’s decision to resign was a surprise, Harju respects Iyall’s decision to focus on his health.

Now, Harju is ready to take on the challenge as chair.

“I ask that everyone pull together just as if we were in a canoe,” Harju said in a press release. “By pulling together and putting our people first, we will continue to accomplish great things.”

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