Meeting She Who Watches
She doesn’t blink, & sees all in view of her gaze. As one of thousands through the centuries, I am no different. I feel her strength & solidarity. From inside I am invited to be honest about who I am. There is no hiding, there are no secrets. I want her to see my strength, & am humbled by her awareness of my weakness. Her sternness is love, honesty without judgement, a mother.
Meet Tsagagalal, a Native American goddess. She looks over the salmon run on the Columbian River Gorge at Horsethief Lake. She draws attention & questions, but little is actually known about her. She overlooks the salmon run that has fed her people for hundreds, if not thousands of years. To me she seems a timeless mother, looking over her children. I’ve seen many Native American figures, but her striking appearance makes her stand out. She is stunning, as people turn the corner & spot her, there is an audible gasp.
She is sixteen inches wide & is both a petroglyph & pictograph since she both is carved & painted. Her paint is made of mazama ash or talc to make white, iron oxide to make red, & charcoal to make black. They were thought to be mixed with animal or human substances, possibly salmon eggs, fish oil, or human urine to make the paint permanent.
Not much is known of her, but the local Wishram tribe have passed on a couple theories. Here is one recorded by Emory Strong in the book, “Stone Age on the Columbia River”
A woman had a house where the village of Nixluidix was later built. She was chief of all who lived in the region. That was a long time before Coyote came up the river and changed things and people were not yet real people. After a time Coyote in his travels came to this place and asked the inhabitants if they were living well or ill. They sent him to their chief who lived up on the rocks, where she could look down on the village and know what was going on.
Coyote climbed up to the house on the rocks and asked “What kind of living do you give these people? Do you treat them well or are you one of those evil women?” “I am teaching them to live well and build good houses,” she said.
“Soon the world will change,” said Coyote, “and women will no longer be chiefs.” Then he changed her into a rock with the command, “You shall stay here and watch over the people who live here.”
All the people know that Tsagaglalae sees all things, for whenever they are looking at her those large eyes are watching them.
There was a small village near the mouth of the river where travelers would pass. These travelers brought with them illnesses & deseases. Many in the area died as a result. Some say ‘She Who Watches’ is a death mask, & mourns their loss.
In both these traditions, & my empressions on first seeing her, one theme is the same. She remembers, sees & is aware of those she loves.
I am grateful to Scotty’s family, for taking the time to show us something beautiful.