She Who Watches
EXHIBITION:Into the Woods: Forests of the Northwest Coast
She Who Watches, whose Native name is Tsagaglal, is an image created in stone. Unlike most of the rock images found in the region, which are either rock etchings (petroglyphs) or rock paintings (pictographs), She Who Watches is both. Petroglyphs (rock engravings) and pictographs (rock paintings) are an important part of the rich cultural heritage of the the Columbia River people. Archaeologists estimate that the oldest of them could be between 6,000 to 7,000 years old, but no one knows for sure. Tsagaglal sits high up on a bluff, overlooking the village of Wishxam, the village where Lillian’s great grandmother used to live. She Who Watches was the first rock image that Lillian ever saw or knew anything about, and it was only because an elder took her to see it. The elder thought it would be good for Lillian to learn something of her heritage and of her grandmother’s village.
“Just about all the art I create is based on the traditional arts of my ancestors and on the legends that have been handed down by my people from generation to generation. My goal is to make the characters in these legends come alive, and to make the images they incorporated into their arts appeal to contemporary tastes. So, my art features the Creator’s right-hand man, Coyote, who helped the Creator make the world and helped the Creator teach people about the way things should be. And it features a host of other characters and stories as well She Who Watches, the Huckleberry Sisters, Salmon, Eagle and Owl, and many more. My intention is always to honor the stories of my ancestors, as well as to educate and entertain people just as the stories of my ancestors have done for so many thousands of years.”
“There was this village on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. And this was long ago when people were not yet real people, and that is when we could talk to the animals.
And so Coyote — the Trickster — came down the river to the village and asked the people if they were living well. And they said “Yes, we are, but you need to talk to our chief, Tsagaglal. She lives up in the hill.” So, Coyote pranced up the hill and asked Tsagaglal if she was a good chief or one of those evildoers. She said, “No, my people live well. We have lots of salmon, venison, berries, roots, good houses. Why do you ask?” And Coyote said, “Changes are going to happen. How will you watch over your people?” And so she didn’t know. And it was at that time that Coyote changed her into a rock to watch her people forever.”