|Photograph by Marilyn Laufenberg|
She Who Watches can only be visited on a guided tour to the Columbia Hills State Park located on the Washington side of the Columbia River. All along the trail, you can pick out petroglyphs depicting deer, mountain sheep, owls, salmon, and a mysterious creature with long flowing tentacles. It's like a treasure hunt with Tsagaglalal as the grand finale.
I spent a day here with my women's hiking group. Amidst the chatter and photography, I felt a stillness and power from these rocks. I've experienced this before in Mesa Verde and other national parks in the Southwest—a tightening of my chest and pulsing throat. As we sat and gazed back at She Who Watches, our tour guide told us the legend.
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 are several legends, of course, including one that interprets her large staring eyes as a representation of death and disease brought by white settlers in the 18th and 19th centuries. But, sitting there quietly after everyone has left, it is not death that I see in her eyes. It is spiritual energy emanating from rock.