Agnes Baker Pilgrim was walking her talk until her last breath at 95 years. Every day of her life she demonstrated her dedication to loving, caring, and speaking for all beings. Keeping this legacy fresh in our minds and rippling it out to others is the goal of this website.
Here is a snapshot of core events and alliances around which Grandma Aggie built her legacy, with an emphasis on her spiritual work starting in the 1970s. In these gatherings and ceremonies (plus hundreds more not listed here) she shared a mountain of prayers, speeches, books, videos, and audios. These precious teachings are a treasure for us to love, study and emulate.
In addition to the events described below, Grandma Aggie's photos, videos, audio tracks, and writings can be found under Legacy Links.
Each summer, Agnes Pilgrim attended the August Nesika Illahee Pow Wow at the Siletz Reservation.
Each year her family members would set up their “camp” and participate in the ceremonial parades and dancing. In 2019, she was chosen by her tribe to serve as the Grand Marshall.
In the early 1980s, Agnes Pilgrim was invited to join the Cultural Heritage and Sacred Lands Committee of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz. She worked closely with Robert Kentta, Cultural Specialist, to promote the unique cultural identity and history of her Tribe.
Agnes helped her tribe's staff work on research and preservation of their language, dances, celebrations, and basketry, as well as coordinating the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act issues. Other responsibilities included: responding to archaeological permit applications, coordinating with the State Historic Preservation Office to protect sacred sites, and managing the Tribal Cultural and Historical Archive collections, including documentation of Siletz collections in other museums.
The committee also hosted events, including the: - Annual Culture Camp, where tribal families would come to strengthen their traditions and culture in a village type atmosphere; - Annual Nesika Illahee Pow-Wow and Restoration Pow-Wow; - Annual Run to the Rogue, a relay run/walk from Siletz to the confluence of the Illinois and Rogue Rivers, commemorating the Siletz Tribal ancestors who were forcibly removed from their homeland in the Rogue River Country and marched north to Siletz in 1856.
Agnes and Grant Pilgrim worked as a team to revive the traditional Salmon Ceremony that was hosted by her ancestors for thousands of years on the Rogue River. After Grant died, Grandma Aggie enlisted family and friends to host events each June, beginning on the Applegate River and then moving to Ti'lomikh Falls on the Rogue.
Working with David West and Brent Florendo of the Native American Studies Department at Southern Oregon University, Agnes helped found Konaway Nika Tillicum Youth Academy, to empower and prepare Native youth for higher education. “Konaway Nika Tillicum” means "All My Relations" in Chinook Trade Jargon.
The faculty began to offer 8-day residential sessions each summer to encourage self-determination and connect students to a community that values native cultures. Agnes and other elders served as a mentors during classes, lectures, and outdoor presentations.
"Konaway Academy is about working from the inside out, finding an identity that's balanced and wholesome, not from the stereotype of what happened to Native Americans in history. It makes participants feel good about themselves." - Brent Florendo
To find out more or make a donation, contact Academy Director Brent Florendo (flor****@**u.edu) at SOU's Native American Studies Department.
Agnes Pilgrim's teachings expanded across 6 continents once she became Founding Chair of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers in 2004. She helped steer their educational projects and speaking engagements for fifteen years.
"We are here… 150 years after our Trails of Tears"
On September 30, 2006 in Ashland, First Nation peoples of southwest Oregon were honored in a celebration, ceremonial walk, and dedication of a new sculpture on Main Street. Over 200 people gathered to honor the 150 years of survival, recovery, and continued struggle of indigenous people, brought on by their forced removal in 1856 to two small reservations east of Oregon's north coast.
Sculptor Russell Beebe (Ojibwe) carved the 20-foot tall sculpture from a local alder tree. Funding was generously provided by Lloyd Matthew Haines of Ashland. Along with a salmon, an eagle, and other local animals, there is a figure of a native woman, modeled after Takelma elder Agnes Baker Pilgrim of Grants Pass.
The afternoon program at Briscoe School included traditional drummers, singers, dancers, story-tellers, and speakers. Afterward everyone walked down Main Street (closed to cars, thanks to the City Council) to ceremonially heal the 1856 Trails of Tears, when native people were marched hundreds of miles to the reservations.
At the entrance to downtown, Grandma Aggie led the sculpture dedication ceremony. Speakers included Robert Kentta (Cultural Specialist for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz), David West (Director of the Native American Studies Department at Southern Oregon University), and Dan Wahpepah (co-founder of Red Earth Descendants).
"All Nations, All Faiths, One Prayer"
Agnes Pilgrim was twice a special guest and ceremonial leader at the annual World Peace and Prayer Day, founded in 1996 by Chief Arvol Looking Horse.
World Peace and Prayer Day brings together people of all races, ages, genders, and faiths, to share their concerns for the welfare of the Earth and humanity.
Grandma Aggie contributed to honoring-ceremonies, invocations, and prayers with indigenous representatives, wisdom keepers, and activists of all denominations. They shared spiritual insights and discussed environmental concerns and cures on local and global levels. There were celebrations of music, dance, and storytelling.
Chief Looking Horse is the Spiritual Leader of all three branches of the Sioux tribe (Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations). He has lived his whole life at the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota.
At the age of 12, he was given the responsibility of becoming the 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe. He has dedicated his life to working for change and fulfilling the sacred prophecy known as "Mending the Sacred Hoop of the Nation.” He is committed to religious freedom, sacred site protection, and cultural revival.
Here are his words from the April 21, 2019 interview by NUNU in Blog de Los Angeles.
"In the sacred tribe of the Chanupa, we live and pray in peace and harmony. We find happiness in our seven principles, which include: prayer, respect, compassion, honesty, generosity, humility and knowledge. We are guided by and honor these principles. We use a word to express our love that has no equivalent in the English language, it is a blend of love and heart.
"We learn at a very early age to appreciate every living thing, grass, trees, animals, horses, dogs. They’re able to cry; they have feelings. This is what we believe. We are raised to respect everything that surrounds us. We pray for everything that breathes life.
"I believe matter changes with our energy. If we use hateful words, this energy alters the substance of things. When you send love from your heart, this love beautifies the nature of whatever surrounds us. When you bless your food, you make it richer.
"People and things feel your energy. This is what keeps you healthy. It’s a very beautiful and simple way to live your life.
"Each one of us is here, this very instant, to decide the future of humanity. Did you really think you had a different mission?"