Tsagiglalal, She Who Watches, is an example of Native American art located high on the basalt rocks on the northern side of the Columbia River near Horsethief Canyon and lake. A longer translation of this name is “She who watches and sees all who are coming and going up and down the river.”
The book, Weird Washington, explains that “there is no doubt that Tsagiglalal was meant as a magical protection for the people who lived in her village for centuries.” The legend is that:
Long ago, in the before time, the Great Spirit wandered the world. He traveled along the Great River (the Columbia) and stopped at a village. He asked the people if they lived well or in poverty. They said that they were happy because of the guidance of their chief. He asked where their chief was, and they pointed to the hills above their village. He went up to the hills and found a woman sitting in front of a hut, looking down at the village. She told him she was the chief, and she looked after her people, teaching them ow to build and live well. He told her, ‘the world is changing and women will no longer be chiefs. What will you do now?’ The woman asked the Great Spirit to turn her into stone, so that she could continue watching over her people. As a sign of mercy, he did just that, and her image was painted into the rockface overlooking her village. She is still there today, looking out over a world that has changed very much since her time…and not always for the better.
Hikers can climb to view Tsagiglalal on tours with Park Rangers by appointment only. I’m glad that she is protected from vandalism and so can continue to watch over her people.
Lets Talk About…such an interesting stone and local story. Even today most women still look over their “villages”. Thank you for your research. In the Yakima Valley we have many rock carvings but don’t always know the history behind them. I hope to go see Tsagiglalal as well as other places in our State of Washington.
I love this story of Tsagiglalal! I have heard a different version, but she is always watching and protecting. She was also featured in one of Seattle’s public art projects.