Taowhywee, Agnes Baker Pilgrim
Takelma Indian Elder, Confederated Tribes of Siletz
Supporting the Salmon Ceremony and the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers


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After 140 years, this ancient ceremony to welcome the returning Salmon was brought back by Grandma Aggie in 1994, and held on Kanaka Flats on the Applegate River through 2006. In 2007, the ceremony was moved to the original site of the Takelma Indian Ceremony at Ti'lomikh (Powerhouse Falls) upstream of Gold Hill, Oregon.

Details: Here's how the Ceremony was done at Kanaka Flats. The Ceremony began by calling everyone to a sunrise service at first light, around 6:30 am on Saturday Morning, so it was recommended that folks come and camp the night before. An area was set aside by the river where a sweat-lodge was set up, and later in the morning the men and boys who wanted to dive in the river for the ceremony began four rounds of sweats to purify themselves. Meanwhile, Salmon were being cooked in the traditional fashion, on redwood stakes set next to a long bed of hot, alder wood coals. In the afternoon, when the fish were ready, everyone was asked to come forward and eat some, leaving the bones and skin with Grandma Aggie.

Then, when the sweat lodge was over, the divers came forward with cedar boughs on their hands, and Grandma Aggie placed the bones and skins on top of the cedar. The drum started, and all the men walked with the divers down to the river. The divers stood at the waters edge offering prayers to the Salmon, thanking them for coming back every year in the spring and the fall to feed the people. Then, one by one, they jumped into the ice cold water and swam deep down to the bottom where they laid the cedar, the bones and the skin so that they could grow back into Salmon and return from their home in the sea to feed the people once again.

Meanwhile, Grandma Aggie gathered the women together in a circle around the fire pit to pray for the female salmon and thank her for offering up her life so that people can live, and so that her body can feed so many species of animals and birds along the river.

When the men returned from the river, they were greeted with whoops of celebration, and then the big feast of salmon, fry bread, potato salad, and other favorites began. In the evening, there were jokes and stories told around the campfire, so people were welcome to spend the night, and to help cleanup Sunday morning. Donations are much appreciated at this time. Grandma Aggie prays that everyone who comes to the ceremony has a good time, sharing and caring for each other.

Directions to Kanaka Flats: Take Hwy 238 from Grants Pass or Medford and turn south at Ruch, following the signs to the Applegate Dam. Just below the dam, cross the bridge and turn right on the dirt road that leads to the ceremonial area at Kanaka Flats. Please drive slowly to keep the dust down. This site can still be reserved for the use of the Takelma Intertribal Project.

Several photos of the Ceremony can be seen in the Photos section of this website.

For more information, see the article by Laird Townsend, Winter 2000, "In the Ancestor's Garden: Stories of Indigenous Revival," Terrain Magazine, Ecology Center, Berkeley, CA. http://www.terrainmagazine.org/article.php?id=13111