40 for 40: Klickitat County
Tsagiglalal - "She Who Watches"

By Pat McCutcheonprevious story | next story | all stories

In the Spring of 1993, vandalism at one of the world’s most famous rock art sites motivated the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation to take action in Klickitat County. The petroglyph and pictograph known as Tsagiglalal, or “She Who Watches,” had been damaged and the Trust placed it on its Most Endangered Historic Properties list. Not long after this event the US Army Corps of Engineers and Washington State Parks stepped in to protect the site. In the fall issue of the Trust’s 1993 newsletter, the rock art was removed from the Most Endangered list and is now protected with restricted access through guided State Park Ranger tours. 

Tsagiglalal, as the Wishram Native American community refers to this rock art, is in nearly every book on the subject around the world. Edward Curtis photographed it and published it as part of his 1910 volume on Native American lifeways. The oral history about this particular rock art panel is rich and clearly ties the local Native American communities to the land. Historic resources like this one are considered sacred by Native Americans, and their vandalism is taken very seriously by those communities and the preservation-minded public as well.

To many, these are not just ancient sites but also have meaning in today’s world and can teach all of us valuable lessons about respecting the land and its resources, including the historic resources. This particular stretch of the Columbia River was noted time and again by early explorers like Lewis and Clark and David Thompson, and even Edward Curtis later, as a very important location where many Native Americans would gather to trade and interact socially.  In fact, archaeological evidence throughout this region shows proof of trading that dates back millennia. For tour information, please go to the Columbia Hills State Park website.

This story is part of a series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. This story highlights one of our most popular programs, the Most Endangered Historic Properties List, and shows just how much need there is for advocacy across the state. If you would like to support this program and spur more positive outcomes for Washington's historic resources, please consider making a special gift to the Washington Trust to support the advocacy work we do through our Most Endangered ProgramContinuous stewardship is needed to protect that irreplaceable legacy for future generations – we appreciate and look forward to your ongoing participation and support.

Here's to 40 more years of saving places that matter across Washington! Please sign up for our special weekly e-newsletter to recieve stories like this in your inbox all year long.

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