Regarding the ancient custom of marriage and bride price: when the Cowlitz people lived in aboriginal cultural times and the upper class persons wanted the daughter of a chief for their son, one man (a messenger) would bring along a gift, such as a slave, or ten horses. The bargain was made if the gift was accepted, and the messenger returned home to round up the relatives of the young (or not so young) man. They then would return to the girl’s father with more gifts, maybe with as many as ten slaves, or forty horses.
The girl’s father would have also been given valuables such as hard baskets. The girl would be all dressed with her valuables at her wedding, so that she could not be seen. They would completely dress her with valuables, with hard baskets. These became her dowry. The death of a spouse obligated the family of the deceased to supply a replacement to the widowed person.
Intermarriage with the Sahaptin people of the Yakama country had a built-in directional factor. Marriage was a predominantly one-way affair, from the east side of the mountains to the west side. Women from the Sahaptin east side of the Cascades were eager to share in the riches of the west side, and our men were not reluctant to accept them as wives. However, our women were quite reluctant to go to the dry lands and assumed poverty of the Yakamas on the east side. Food gathering was a much easier task on this side of the mountains than on the other. The process was slow, but over the centuries it became extremely effective. This did not involve the movement of a people, but only the occasional westward marriage of an individual woman; consequently, by the time of the arrival of the white man, the Upper Cowlitz had become a Taidnapam dialect Sahaptin speaking people as well as Salish.
Similar results from totally different factors took place among the Lewis River Cowlitz. Whereas the Upper Cowlitz were affected by the influx of Yakama Sahaptin speaking women through marriage, the Lewis River Cowlitz were impacted by means of “Roving Klickitat” men (the traveling traders) who came down the trail to trade. They found the people and the habitat to their liking, and settled down marrying Cowlitz women. As the Klickitats expanded to the western slope, there was no tribal movement, only individuals were involved and their entry into the Cowlitz tribe was nearly always by intermarriage. The number of intermarriages was relatively few in any given year, but they led to the expansion of numbers for the Lewis River Cowlitz. They ceased being Klickitat and became Cowlitz.