Lillian Pitt: My Ancestors Are Tough People

In this excerpt, Lillian Pitt [Warm Springs/Wasco/Yakama] talks about her experience first seeing She Who Watches and the power of ancestry.

Bio: Lillian Pitt is a Pacific Northwest Native American artist whose ancestors lived in and near the Columbia River Gorge. The focus of her work is on creating contemporary fine art pieces that delight today’s art lovers, and at the same time, honor the history and legends of her people.


And there was company at Lucinda Smith’s house and I was visiting with her and she says “well, you know, your daddy was born in Tonino, but Tonino isn’t really Tonino, that’s just the name of that place, it’s a name of an Indian group, and they lived on the mouth of the Deschutes River, and his mother’s Indian name was [Wah-yuten] and her sister’s name was [Tim-ex] and they were born under the gaze of [Tsagaglalal] and so, they were the ones that told me about Tsagaglalal or She Who Watches, ‘cause I kept seeing this image coming back and Mr. Monner kept talking about it and they were the ones who told me about my ancestry. So then I was able to go up, and when I first saw her it was such a transformative emotion, and it gave me such a tremendous sense of power of self that no one can ever take away. Not power like the politicians, but just this wonderful sense of being. You know, that I come from thousands and thousands of years of ancestry, who are tough people, who survived the Columbia River Gorge and all that went on at that time. And so it was the Elders that told me about her and then I went and found her. And it was just phenomenal. But I can’t, so when I do her, I try to make sure, I don’t have the earrings on [speaking softly, as if to herself], I try to make sure I do her perfectly, you know, to honor these ancestors and Lucinda, for telling me who I am and giving me these names.

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