. .

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

Table Rocks

Ceremonies and spiritual beliefs of the Takelma

The Takelma expressed many spiritual beliefs through their myths and legends and the mythological characters found in these stories - several of which relate to the Table Rocks area.

This belief system is described as animistic and is based on the belief that all natural objects are inhabited by a spirit. Animists also believe humans possess souls with a distinct life that is separate from the human body before and after death. Anthropologists consider animism to be probably the oldest form of religious belief on earth.

Dragonfly

Daldal Dragonfly Brothers
Takelma Creation Story

Coyote - Trickster Character

Coyote
Trickster Character

Hawk

Hawk
Sacred Animal

For the Takelma, the spirits were associated with particular plants, animals, and places thought to be the transformed manifestations of primeval earthly inhabitants (Gray 1987:43, Sapir 1907a:34). Animals, plants, rocks, and weather all had spiritual meaning and a person's fate, as well as events of nature, were controlled by supernatural spirits. Thus, although maintaining good relationships among and between people was important, it was also crucial for the Takelma to maintain positive interactions with the many unseen spirits (the plants, the trees, the rocks, the animals) that surrounded them (Tveskov 2002:15).

Gray, Dennis J.

  • 1987 The Takelma and their Athapascan Neighbors: A New Ethnographic Synthesis for the Upper Rogue River Area of Southwestern Oregon. Eugene, Oregon: University of Oregon Anthropological Papers No. 37.

Sapir, Edward

  • 1907a Religious Ideas of the Takelma Indians of Southwestern Oregon. Journal of American Folk-Lore 20:33-49.

Tveskov, Mark, Nicole Norris, and Amy Sobiech

  • 2002 The Windom Site: A Persistent Place in the Western Cascades of Southwest Oregon. Ashland, Oregon: SOULA Research Report 2002-1.
Ceremonial spear point

Ceremonial spear point

Collection of Southern Oregon University, Department of Anthropology

Mediation between the spirit world and the Takelma was normally accomplished by a shaman (Goyo). A shaman obtained his/her special powers from one or several guardian spirits, which were contacted during fasting and praying in the mountains (Sapir 1907a:41). A shaman could be either a man or a woman, and held extraordinary powers to effect good or evil.

Sapir, Edward

  • 1907a Religious Ideas of the Takelma Indians of Southwestern Oregon. Journal of American Folk-Lore 20:33-49.

Ceremonies were also a part of Takelman life, though they were limited to the practice of certain rituals during important crises and life phases, during warfare, and for annual renewals of significant food resources (Gray 1987:40, Sapir 1907a). Annual renewal ceremonies focused on the two main food resources of the Takelma, the acorn and the salmon. Their First Salmon ceremony was probably very similar to those practiced by other Native groups in the Pacific Northwest. The object of the ceremonies was to ensure the return of large populations of spawning salmon and abundant acorn crops (Sapir 1907a:33).

Gray, Dennis J.

  • 1987 The Takelma and their Athapascan Neighbors: A New Ethnographic Synthesis for the Upper Rogue River Area of Southwestern Oregon. Eugene, Oregon: University of Oregon Anthropological Papers No. 37.

Sapir, Edward

  • 1907a Religious Ideas of the Takelma Indians of Southwestern Oregon. Journal of American Folk-Lore 20:33-49.

A version of these subsistence ceremonies has been revitalized today in the Rogue Valley. The eldest surviving Takelma elder, Agnes Baker-Pilgrim, is an active member of the local Native community. Though a huge amount of traditional Takelman culture was lost, Agnes has made an effort to learn as much as possible about her people and their history. She has restarted the tradition of both a salmon and an acorn ceremony in the hopes of further sharing her knowledge about Takelma culture with other Native descendants and the general public. All are encouraged to attend these ceremonies which take place in the summer and the fall!

Return to Takelma Culture