On this morning the smoke was heavy and hung lazily in the air. The sun blessed Portland with an eerie orange glow. This is the new normal in late summer Pacific Northwest. Another day to give thanks and fulfill my promise as a dreamstarter. Today we will head out to the Columbia river gorge and visit with Tsagaglal, or She Who Watches. Below is a short story from Lillian Pits website about Tsagaglal.
“This is the legend about She Who Watches that the elder told Lillian, and the story that Lillian now tells: 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.”
Pitt, Lillian. “Lillian Pitt Depicts She Who Watches in a Range of Artistic Media.” Lillian Pitt, 7 Apr. 2018, lillianpitt.com/she-who-watches/.
Tsagaglal as a physical manifestation is a petroglyph (rock etching) and pictograph (rock painting) on the northern side of the Columbia river or Nch’i-Wana, which means “The Big River” in the Sahaptin language. Our guide is Ed Edmo, a Shoshone-Bannock elder who grew up in a railroad tie house next to Celilo Falls. Ed is a traditional storyteller, playwright and performer. Ed used to play on the banks of Celilo Falls as a child before The Dalles Dam was built. The Dam flooded Celilo falls and all of the Indian villages along its banks, forever changing and drowning the traditional trading hub which had served as a priceless cultural gathering place for several millennia.
Our group had 3 youth and 3 adults including Ed Edmo who had us sit by the river as he told us his family history and showed us pictures from his life on the river. After sharing several traditional stories with us, we headed out on our short hike to Tsagaglal along the northern bank of the Nch’i-Wana. Along this hike there are many petroglyphs and pictographs from the ancestors of the land. By the end of the day we were all exhausted from our late summer hike but nourished from the stories of the ancient ones.