ASHLAND, Ore.– Southern Oregon University’s highest honor was given on Wednesday to one of the oldest living members of the Rogue Valley’s Native American Takelma people.
Known as Grandma Aggie, Agnes Baker Pilgrim has spent her life sharing Native American culture and supporting environmental protection. Internationally recognized as one of thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers from across the world, this just scratches the surface of who Grandma Aggie is.
For 95 years, she’s led quite a diverse life.
“I just thank God that I’m able to be here today,” she said during her speech as she received the President’s Medal, the university’s highest tribute established in 1984. It’s awarded to a community member that has distinguished themselves in their actions and contributions.
Recognized as a “living treasure” by the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz, Grandma Aggie is the oldest living member of the Takelma people and the confederated tribes.
“She’s been a true leader of tribal nations and one that you don’t want to argue with and you don’t want to get in her way with her wheelchair,” said Delores Pigsley, chairman of the Siletz Tribal Council.
In her early career, Grandma Aggie led a diverse life. She sang in a band, was a bouncer at a nightclub – she even drove a logging truck.
But in 1970, she decided to take a more spiritual path.
“Love is all there is. Do you agree with me?” she said to the crowd. “Now I’m not talking about some egotistical love, I’m just talking about being able to take in one more breath. The love of L-I-F-E – of life.”
In 1985, she graduated from the then Southern Oregon State College where she began creating and supporting Native American programs.
“She has lived and taught reciprocity, the importance of giving to others in appreciation of what you’ve been given,” said Linda Schott, president of SOU.
In 2004, she co-founded the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers – an alliance that focuses on issues like the environment and human rights.
But more than ever now, Grandma Aggie enjoys her time with her family and all those that have been in her life.
“I don’t know how else to say thanks to each and every one of you,” she said. “Bless your hearts for all of you that have come and maybe someday you too can be sitting where I’m sitting.”
Grandma Aggie says while she knows her time is getting shorter, her journey is far from finished.
NBC5 News Reporter Miles Furuichi graduated from Chapman University with degrees in English and Journalism. He received post graduate experience in Los Angeles in photojournalism and commercial photography. He also spent time in Dublin, Ireland working in print journalism and advertising.
Miles is a Rogue Valley native, raised in Ashland. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking and photography.