Now we must try to do things as they were done before. When we first restored the salmon ceremony over here on the Applegate at Kanaka Flats, we had two salmon caught in a very special way and my husband was still alive, he cooked the salmon in a good way. Had some young men in a sweat lodge do a purification sweat and took in some cedar boughs with them. Those salmon, I cut with a mahogany blade like my old ones did and served it with a mussel shell to everybody that came, everybody got a taste of it. Took the remains of the salmon and had this young man that came out of the sweat lodge put them on top of cedar boughs. And they took them, and then the drumming behind them, and went down to the river, stood at the water’s edge, and did their prayers, and swam down and dove in with those remains. Went down to the bottom and spoke to the salmon people, “Please come back and feed us. We love you. We need you for us to survive.” And they swam down in the icy cold waters, and we drummed them up when they hit the shore, and came back up and they were warriors now, shouting and hollering.
That was the first year, the restoration of The Salmon Ceremony. The next year the Fish and Game came and the man that worked there for many many years said that was the most salmon the following year that they saw in the Applegate River. Now you know it didn’t have to do with mankind, it had to do with the Spirit world, the Creator talking to the Salmon People to come back and feed us. And I believe in prayer or I wouldn’t be standing here today.
Photos 7 Generations – Family photos spanning 7 generations and 125 years, from Grandfather Olhatha, George Harney, first Chief of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz in the 1880s to Great-Great-Great-Granddaughter Natalie Solis in 2005 can be viewed in this section as a slide show or individual photos.
Photos Spiritual Work – Thirty-six years of dedication to the spirit have brought Grandma Aggie into a wide variety of lessons and opportunities to give. From pow-wows to environmental conferences, from schools to health centers, Aggie has been busy reaching out to people of all cultures and ages, including people as diverse as Martha Stewart, Bruce Babbitt (former Secretary of the Interior), Gloria Steinem and Alice Walker at special events like the Sacred Salmon Ceremony and the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers A few of these are shown in this section as a slide show or individual photos.
And I pray that you will remember when you go home to stop – now I’m not talking about religion, I’m not talking about Christianity. I’m talking about a spirituality that’s in all things that we’ve become blind to. Before long our kids go, “Where’d this milk come from?” “Safeway.” You know, we’ve got this spiritual blindness, we don’t even clarify this to our children, about our foods and where they come from and how precious they are to us.
Keynote Speech: Western Forest Activists Conference, February 5, 1999
My native name is Tao-Why-Wee, yet that isn’t what explains who I am. It’s all those thousands and thousands of ancestors before me, that speak through me at times like this, that make me who I am. I have not forgotten the ancient ones that traveled this land for over twenty-two thousand years from where we sit here today.
I was told by the old ones that in the beginning the Creator built all the mountains and the rivers, put all the dirt in the land, built all the mighty waters.
When He turned around and created us, the two- leggeds, as I call you and I, He said, “I would also give you a brain, you two-leggeds. And with that brain, I’ll give you the power to reason. And with that power to reason, you are to take care of everything I have created before you. And do it in moderation, and in balance.”
Then He turned and handed us the four chiefs: land, air, water, and fire. And He said, “You take these, and I will teach you how to use them. I will teach you how to do these things In moderation, so you will not destroy your world. When you go forward with these four chiefs, land, air, water, and fire and use them in a good way.”
So with this powerful brain, and this right to reason, what did we do? We’re destroying those four chiefs. We quit the cool burnings. My people did the cool burnings underneath the trees. The women in my tribe did that. They knew the parameters, they knew the seasons, they knew how often to do the burnings. And yet you go out there now, and you see all the underbrush, and when the lightning strikes, it’s just like pouring gasoline to it, isn’t it? Because there’s no more cool burnings.
The deer are getting smaller. When I was young, during the depression years, the deer were big. Now they’re getting smaller. The ones you see along the highway look like jackrabbits now. Because there’s no cool burnings.
The leaves are big, and they get full before they get the proper nutrients, because there’s no burnings. When I was young we picked wild blackberries, great big things, small leaves. Now the leaves are big and the berries are small, and they’re very dear, you can hardly see them much anymore. So we walked away from the cool burnings.
We are not separated from the sky, the earth, the ground, the mountain, the rock, the swimmers in the water. We are not separate, we are connected, we are a chain. And we are that voice to all of those things that it takes us to sustain our lives.
But again there is that spiritual blindness. At sacred places all over this country, people are building big antennas and things on top of sacred mountains, never caring about their spirituality at all. This is what’s frightening me about people today, that spiritual blindness.
I’d like to give you talented people something to think about today, some panavision! Get away from this mice vision. Get away from just seeing through a tunnel. Look at the bigger view. Be a voice.
Out there in the hail and the rain, my husband and I have been singing and praying to the forest people and to all that lived in the ecosystem, that we hear you, we’re here to pray that you will not be cut down and destroyed.
We have to come back and reprogram ourselves that we are unique, we are the precious creations of the Creator with this mind that He gave us the power to reason, to stop the spiritual blindness. Everything that you walk amongst out there is sacred. I dance in my sacred clothes. I dance a sacred song. I dance in a sacred voice. I dance in a sacred circle. I dance my sacred path giving thanks to our Mother Earth for all the things I have on my back because it came through Her.
I have stopped my physical blindness, my spiritual blindness not only here today where I stand, but seven generations ahead. So there would be some beauty and some thought given In a way to walk for my children and my children’s children. So there would be some of this beauty left for them and they will not have to experience this spiritual blindness.
The salmon has a right to swim. The whale, the eel, the crab, our feathered families have a right to nesting grounds and a way of life. They have a right for just being! And it is up to us, that the Creator has given us vaice to, to walk out there and to take your message and stop this spiritual blindness. Right?
This is why I honor Chant and the committee at Headwaters and their endeavors and hard work year after year, for their voice and for their messages. They run parallel with mine. I care. I have this voice and I thank the Creator, yes, let me live a long time so I can be a voice for those things which cannot speak — for a tree cannot write a letter, the bear can’t answer the phone, and a deer can’t run a computer. Allow me to be this voice! Allow me to speak of their right and their spirituality and why they’re here.
This is our natural world. And it is time that we start doing something about it and to proud of our inheritance, be proud of our right and our privilege to walk in beauty as we have like in this campus and the trees and the way it’s taken care of. It should be this way all over, in the hearts of people all over the country. And we should always speak and pray for the people in the big conglomerates like MacMillan-Blodel up there in Canada and Boise-Cascade. I’ve talked to these people. There’s got to be a better way. We understand the tree people as a renewable resource. We understand that. But we have to do a better balance in the way of growing and the way of taking away.
So we have to be doing a better thing about spirituality. To be able to speak out if you got somebody that’s going to build a road and do some logging in your community. You’ve got that voice to be able to say, you know, do we need this? Do we need another road? Do we need to cut all these trees? Why ship them to Japan and then buy them back? Why can’t we make a product right here and put our people to work? You know, why can’t we? Aren’t we big enough? Aren’t we smart enough?
But we’ve got to stop this spiritual blindness and learn that everything is sacred to us. This buckskin skirt I wear is sacred to us. Even though he’s gone, the spirit of the deer walks with me. My basket cap from the tree people walks with me in spirit. The beads on here of the water, the swimmers in the water, are sacred and their spirit walks with me. They’re sacred because I am their voice, I care. I know where they come from. Everybody should care and give praise to a building like this from the tree people, to give thanks. When you cook your meal on the wood stove give thanks to the tree people and the warmth. Be that voice. Stop the spiritual blindness.
Everything you hear should not stay here. It should be flowing into the community where you go back to. Stop the spiritual blindness. There’s many places, in the rock cairns up here in the mountains, to go up and talk to the Creator and visit these places. Reconnect yourselves! We’re not separate from the tree, the rock, the river, the ocean, the whale, the wolf. We’ re not divided. We are that link. We are part of that fabric, for God’s sake! Stop the spiritual blindness.
And I pray that you will remember everything that you hear here, what is happening around our world. And our sacred places are slowly being destroyed. And I think if we keep up the destruction, the Creator will say, “I handed you the four chiefs and you destroyed them so I’ll destroy you.” Do we have a chance to come back and balance ourselves and do a better thing with our Mother Earth?
I don’t care where you come from! I don’t care what kind of walk of life you live! You have a voice, You have an obligation, a responsibility to fight for our Mother Earth. No matter where you are, you don’t have to just wait until you come here to Headwaters. Do like I do, I’m Johnny Appleseed, all over the country. Wherever I go, whoever will listen.
And I’d like to close with a little saying from John Colter who wrote this in 1947: “…we have lost that passion and reverence for human personality and for the web of life and the Earth, which the American Indians have tended as central and sacred, the sacred fire since time immemorial. Our long hope is to renew that sacred fire in us all.” To renew it is our only hope. ‘Cause I know this land is a holy place.
Thank you very, very much.