She Who Watches Transformation Mask by Lillian Pitt, Yakama/Warm Springs/Wasco
She Who Watches Transformation Mask, 1982
by Lillian Pitt, Yakama/Warm Springs/Wasco
raku fired clay, leather, shell, beads
12" tall x 9" wide x 2" deep
This mask is a one-of-a kind piece created for an exhibition in Portland, OR in 1982. This piece represents Tsagaglalal (She Who Watches), in transformation from a human chief into a petroglyph. Here is the story of her transformation:
"There was a village on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge, 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?” She didn’t know. So it was at that time that Coyote changed her into a rock to watch over her people forever."
Yakama, Warm Springs, and Wasco Nation artist Lillian Pitt is an accomplished artist who has been exhibiting her contemporary sculpture, carvings, masks, glass, wearable art, and works on paper for over thirty years. One of the indigenous people of the Columbia River Gorge, she is called by her Indian name, Wak'amu (Strongly Rooted), by elders of the Warm Springs, Wasco, and Yakama tribes. The term might also describe her art, for although her approach to form and materials is eclectic and contemporary, her intriguing metaphors are always rooted in her Native American tradition.
She says this about her work: “I use the ancient stories of my ancestors as a basis for the imagery I create. By doing this I maintain the memory of an ancient culture and keep the beliefs of my people alive. We have forgotten how to live in harmony with nature. Accessing this vast reservoir of traditional information and translating it into contemporary terms jogs our memories and provides points of reference to achieving balance within ourselves, our community and the world. My ancestors have a 10,000-year history in the Columbia River Gorge. Much of my work has to do with the preservation and care of the environment along this ancient waterway.”