AGE is a Gift
Spotlight on Patty Kinswa-Gaiser
AGE is honored to spotlight Patty Kinswa-Gaiser in our AGE is a Gift series. Patty is an Elder member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe who serves as the Tribal Council Chairwoman and several other boards and committees. Patty is Taidnapaum Cowlitz which means “Upper Cowlitz”. The tribe originates in Eastern Lewis County to Cowlitz Prairie in Toledo, Washington.
Patty was raised in a humble community, where her grandmother and her parents had houses on the same driveway. It was there that her grandmother taught her to gather and weave. Patty would join her grandmother before daylight to cut roots for weaving baskets and gather plants for teas. Her grandmother passed away when Patty was rather young, and as a result Patty tried to hold on to everything she taught her.
Patty’s passion for art and culture was also passed down through elders who would come from other tribes to teach the children. They taught singing, drumming, and creating songs. Patty learned many old Cowlitz songs from elders. In Patty’s community you do not sing songs from other people unless you were given the rights to do so. Then when you sing the song you acknowledge they were given to you, when, and what they mean. This is a tradition which she has now passed down to her daughter as well.
In addition to music, Patty considers bead work one of her greatest art forms. She teaches beading classes for beginners. Patty does her beadwork at tribal meetings. At one point she was told to stop doing the beadwork and listen. But her grandmother taught her, “Don’t have lazy hands”. Patty has introduced beading and other creative work into the meeting space.
Patty considers age a gift. It has brought respect and knowledge to what she shares and says. She has worked with many families and their children. She has grandchildren and great grandchildren, and continues sharing cultural education for everyone. Since her retirement from the Cowlitz Indian Tribe as the Elder’s Program Manager, she enjoys helping others through the Chemical Dependency Department, Mental Health Group and Healing of the Canoe youth program. Patty teaches cultural education which includes drum making, beading, medicine bags, working with cedar, and oral history of her family and tribe.