Those of us who enjoy exercising along the Waterfront Renaissance Trail are familiar with the large bronze statue located west of Columbia Shores. It stands in a small plaza, and both the statue and the plaza were acquired to honor the Chinook people who have inhabited this region for thousands of years.
The seven foot, 700 pound bronze figure was created by Eric Jensen in 1994. The statue is of a remarkable woman named Ilchee, which means Moon Girl. She was a powerful Shaman of the Chinook Tribe in the early 1800’s. Native American folklore suggests that she paddled her own canoe, which at that time, “was a sign of a chief.”
Ilchee was a favorite daughter of Chief Comcomly, the powerful leader of a tribe of Chinook Indians who lived at the mouth of the Columbia River. Her full story involves several marriages, political turmoil, and finally threats of death from a husband who blamed her for the loss of a son. Eventually, after living at Fort Vancouver, Ilchee had to flee for safety to her tribe in Astoria.
The Waterfront Renaissance Trail offers many stunning views. We imagine Ilchee enjoying it too as she keeps watch over this section of the mighty Columbia River. Perhaps, we hope, she might dream of the days when she paddled her own canoe with the skill and power worthy of a chief.