Cowlitz Tribe Unveils Name, Design Of New Ilani Casino

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
June 20, 2016 9:30 p.m.

A new casino called Ilani is expected to open on the Cowlitz reservation in southwest Washington next spring, making it the largest and closest casino to Portland.


The tribe unveiled the name and design of the $500 million project Monday.

The word "Ilani" means “sing” for the Cowlitz Tribe, but it also means a lot more than that, explained Cowlitz spiritual leader, Tanna Engdahl, who spoke at the unveiling.


“It is the memory of the songs we sang throughout the centuries on the long journey to this time,” said Engdahl, “And it means so much to us to know that in all of our songs, we did not have a song for defeat – so we never learned how to give up.”

The perseverance of the Cowlitz Tribe is clear, after several legal disputes, lasting a decade, between the Cowlitz Tribe, the city of Vancouver, Clark County and others continuously halted the construction of the casino.

The casino is forming from a 12-year-long partnership between the Cowlitz and Mohegan tribes and is inspired by the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut, according to Cowlitz Tribal Chairman Bill Iyall.

At the unveiling, Iyall spoke about the importance of the casino to the Cowlitz community and how he is relying on his ancestors' legacy to carry the project forward to completion.

“This is a culmination of 160 years, truly, of effort to get our land base,” says Iyall, “but also to return an economic base for the future, a very prosperous future, of our Cowlitz people.”

When completed, the 368,000-square-foot facility will include 2,500 slot machines, 80 gaming tables, 15 different restaurants, bars and retail stores as well as a 2,500-seat meeting and entertainment venue.

Located near Interstate 5, about 17 miles north of Vancouver, Ilani is expected to bring up to 1,000 jobs to the area.