Lillian Pitt: Getting to Know the Artist

Lillian Pitt is a Native American artist from the Big River (Columbia River) region of the Pacific Northwest. Born on the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon, she is a descendent of Wasco, Yakama, and Warm Springs people.

She is one of the most highly regarded Native American artists in the Pacific Northwest. Her works have been exhibited and reviewed regionally, nationally and internationally, and she has been the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions. Her awards include the 2007 Earle A. Chiles Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the 1990 Governor’s Award of the Oregon Arts Commission, which declared that she had made “significant contributions to the growth and development of the cultural life of Oregon.” 

Some of Lillian Pitt's jewelry, small masks and pins will be available for sale at the Friends Shop in the Visitors Center of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.  The Visitors Center is located at 1501 East Evergreen Boulevard, Vancouver, Washington.  

A collection of Lillian Pitt's sculpted masks will be on permanent display at the Visitor Center.

Below are three transcripts from videotaped interviews with Lillian as she discusses some of her work.  Watch a Ted Talk from March 23, 2013 with Lillian Pitt and Toma Villa.

Lillian Pitt – On Celilo Falls
Interview January 7, 2012    21:24 – 22.07

“It stays with me and then if I meditate long enough I can hear the falls, I can hear the roar of it, I could hear, I could feel the mist coming on my face and on my bare feet, I never wore shoes, and um, and feel the coolness of the sand, there was always sand amongst the rocks, you know, and your feet would get cold, you’d just step into the sun, your feet would get hot instantly, you know, because it was always in the sun, and the shade was so cool and so I can just feel and hear and see and smell all of that”

Lillian Pitt – On ‘She Who Watches’
Interview January 7, 2012    31:38 – 32.53

When speaking to an elder – 

“...and she says, well you know, your   [begin]  daddy was born in Tenino – but Tenino isn’t really Tenino 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 Wayuten and her sister’s name was Timix and they were born under the gaze of Shaglalh and so they were the ones who told me about Shaglalh or ‘She Who Watches’ because I kept seeing this image coming back and Mr. Monar kept talking about it and they were the ones who told me about my ancestry and 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.” 

Lillian Pitt – On the Mask at Land Bridge
Interview January 7, 2012   38:20 – 38:43

“It was a Chinook woman. And, I gave her the slanted forehead, that the royal Chinook people get to have, and so it was a wonderful job honoring the Chinook people; And because it was the women who did the trading, they did all the business things, so I wanted to honor the women of the Chinook people.”

*This is where it became unclear to me as to if the mask represented ‘She Who Watches’ or a Chinook woman.