Benefit aids 'Grandmother Aggie'

CAVE JUNCTION — A fundraiser for Agnes Baker Pilgrim, a Takelma Indian elder who will lead a salmon ceremony on the Rogue River at Gold Hill on June 2, is scheduled for today.

The event, including music and dinner, will begin at 6 the Takilma Community Center at 9367 Takilma Road, Takilma. Located in the southeast corner of the Illinois Valley, the community's moniker is a modification of the Indian name, according to the "Oregon Geographic Names" book.

Admission is $10 to $20 per person on a sliding scale. The $8 dinner includes linguini or quiche as well as dessert.

Darryl Cherney and the Patriot Act, a musical group from Northern California, will perform at 8:30 p.m. A raffle offering art and services also will be featured.

The benefit is intended to help the woman known fondly by many as "Grandmother Aggie" continue her work for humanity and the environment, said Illinois Valley resident Annette Rasch, one of the organizers.

Following the dinner, Pilgrim will talk about her travels, including a recent meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Pilgrim, 82, is the oldest known descendant of the Takelma Indians who inhabited much of what is now southwestern Oregon before the arrival of European Americans.

In 1994, Pilgrim revived the salmon ceremony along the Applegate River that had been lost for nearly 150 years when her ancestors were forced to march from their native land to the Siletz reservation. Her grandfather was the first chief of the Siletz Confederation of Tribes.

The salmon ceremony scheduled in Gold Hill will be open to the public. During the event, those present will pray for continued salmon runs.

"I am trying to teach reciprocity," Pilgrim said in a prepared statement. "We two-leggeds are always taking and rarely giving back. Without reciprocity, the balance of nature is thrown off."

She is the eldest member as well as chairwoman of the International Council of Thirteen Grandmothers, a global alliance of grandmothers from a variety of cultures dedicated to preserving a healthy environment and indigenous people.

Next month, the grandmothers will make a pilgrimage to the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation, one of the most impoverished Indian reservations in the United States. They also are seeking to gain an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

The grandmothers have written a book, "Grandmothers Counsel the World." Pilgrim will be autographing copies of the book that will be offered for sale during the fundraiser.

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