Gold Hill in Jackson County, Oregon — The American West (Northwest)
The Salmon Ceremony at Ti'lomikh Falls
During the Salmon Ceremony, an elder of the Takelma sat in a stone seat called the "Story Chair" to net the first salmon of the spring run. To allow salmon to pass upstream to spawn, that first salmon was carefully prepared and divided, as a sacrament, among the people. To ensure that the salmon would always return, divers returned the bones and skin of the first fish to the pool below the falls. Only then did the fishing season begin.
Salmon ceremonies managed the fishery until 1851, when gold was discovered. A brutal war broke out, and in 1853, a treaty was signed ceding the Rogue Valley to the U.S. with the promise of a permanent reservation. A temporary reservation was established near the Table Rocks, but war continued. In 1856, the surviving Takelma and other tribes were marched north to the Siletz Reservation and
Mining, overfishing, logging, farming, dams, and urbanization decimated the salmon runs. Hatcheries were built to compensate for the loss of wild fish and habitat; nevertheless, current salmon runs average only about ten percent of the pre-settlement period.
The Ceremony and the Story Chair might have been forgotten, but in 1933, Takelma elder Gwisgwashan (Frances Johnson) and family including George Baker traveled here from Siletz with John P. Harrington, who recorded the story for the Smithsonian Institution.
In 2007, Grandma Agnes Baker Pilgrim, the oldest living Takelma, came to Ti'lomikh with a photograph of her father, George Baker, taken by John Harrington. The Story Chair was rediscovered, and the Salmon Ceremony was restored to the ancient site. Since then, three dams have been removed on the Rogue River, and the salmon runs have improved.
In 2012, "Grandma Aggie" took her seat on the Story Chair and blessed the water. "We are all water babies," she said. "We are all people of the river."
[Captions for photos on left side of marker - click on marker photo to enlarge:]
George Baker sits on the Story Chair in 1933.
For the Takelma, salmon are the "gold" in the Rogue River.
Salmon cooking on redwood skewers at the 2012 Salmon Ceremony.
[Caption for photo
Grandma Agnes Baker Pilgrim, 89, was brought by raft to the Story Chair by an international team of Olympic athletes, July 1, 2012.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Animals • Churches & Religion • Native Americans • Women.
Location. 42° 26.618′ N, 123° 2.505′ W. Marker is in Gold Hill, Oregon, in Jackson County. Marker is on Upper River Road, one mile north of Oregon Route 99, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Gold Hill OR 97525, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A different marker also named The Salmon Ceremony at Ti'lomikh Falls (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); City of Gold Hill (approx. 0.9 miles away); The Lure of Gold (approx. 1.1 miles away); The Takelma (approx. 1.1 miles away); Dardanelles (approx. 1.4 miles away); Safety Follows Wisdom (approx. 2.3 miles away); Rock Point Bridge (approx. 2.6 miles away); Rock Point Hotel (approx. 2.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Gold Hill.
More about this marker. Note there is an identically-worded marker across the Rogue River from this marker site, with the difference being that this side has a better view of the falls, but the other side has better river access.
Also see . . . Restoring Ti'lomikh: The "Sword" in the Storytelling Stone (Gold Hill Whitewater Center). 26-slide presentation on the Ti'lomikh Falls Salmon. (Submitted on November 2, 2016.)
Credits. This page was last revised on October 19, 2020. It was originally submitted on November 2, 2016, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Sacramento, California. This page has been viewed 220 times since then and 7 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on November 2, 2016, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Sacramento, California.