Thomas Doty – Storyteller


Updated 1/15/2019  |  Refresh


Upriver to Morning is Cultural, Environmental, Bilingual, and Educational. This engaging story weaves inter-generational themes within the context of Salmon's year-long journey upriver, from the Pacific Ocean to the Rogue River's source at Boundary Springs. Details of the project are described on this web page.

Our Latest News

  • Tish McFadden and Thomas Doty are giving a free Upriver to Morning presentation in Gold Hill, OR on February 9: View Flier (PDF).
  • Irina Doty is the new Webmaster and Web Designer for a dedicated Upriver to Morning website. Thomas Doty will assist her, providing content and graphics.
  • Laura Winslow was recently chosen to be the Artist & Illustrator for Upriver to Morning. See her bio below.
  • We are negotiating a partnership with a Fiscal Sponsor which will give us a better ability to pursue grants and develop educational programs. Grants will fund various portions of the project, including a dedicated website, and an artist to illustrate the story.

A New Native Story


Upriver to Morning is a five-book journey-to-wisdom story set in the native landscape of southwest Oregon. Written by Tish McFadden, the story dramatizes 25 teachings of Takelma elder Agnes Baker Pilgrim. Her Takelma name is Taowhywee (Morning Star).

From seaside beaches to riverine woodlands, interior valleys, the Table Rocks, river gorges, and ultimately to alpine springs, the story is rooted in universal life lessons that can deepen our capacity for compassion and sense of belonging.

The story opens at sunset at the mouth of the Rogue River where Salmon is preparing for his long swim upriver to Boundary Springs, the home of Morning Star, and where all things begin. Not to be left behind on this adventure, and for their own motives, Coyote, Red-Tailed Hawk, Deer Woman, Jackrabbit, and Bear, one-by-one, join Salmon on his trek.

Common to folktales from diverse cultures, the animal and earth element characters in Upriver to Morning possess identifiable personalities that we care about, laugh about, fear, and admire. Throughout the narrative, and woven into the adventures, we uncover ancient Takelma teachings that convey universal wisdom for all ages.

Excerpts from Upriver to Morning


From Book Three

In the end, the Dragonfly Brothers, exhausted with argument, agree to disagree. They each pick their own spots on the edge of Rogue River, one upriver and one down.

Far away, as the sun dips into the ocean, brushing clouds red and gold, the Brothers turn themselves into Upper and Lower Table Rocks. In this new form, they become the center of the universe, a communal homeland, and the ribs of the Great Animal that is the World.

Read in Spanish


Read More Excerpts

In-Person Presentations

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Tish McFadden and Thomas Doty are available for community presentations ... in classrooms, libraries, museums.... Programs include traditional native stories, as well as selections of stories and songs from Upriver to Morning.

View Sample Flier (PDF)

Project Overview

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Here are the Cultural, Environmental, Bilingual and Educational components that make up the Upriver to Morning project.

  • 11,000 word illustrated book series.
  • Bilingual versions in English and Spanish.
  • Audiobooks.
  • Story Theatre scripts in English and Spanish.
  • Original songs.
  • Classroom activity guides for teachers using art, movement, and music.
  • Common Core Curriculum alignments across the grade levels.
  • Writing prompts.
  • In-person presentations.
  • Dedicated website to conveniently bring these features, and more, to teachers, students, and parents.

Samples for Educators


Here's a sampling of curriculum materials available to educators.

Who is Involved?

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Work on Upriver to Morning began in the summer of 2016. Several specialists have contributed their creativity and knowledge to the project.

  • Tish McFadden: Concept Design, Writer, Songwriter, classroom visits and activities.
  • Agnes Baker Pilgrim (Taowhywee): Inspiration, Takelma Spiritual Leader, source of 25 teachings.
  • Laura Winslow: Artist & Illustrator.
  • Stephanie Craig: Grand Ronde Tribal Member, Oregon Folklife Network's Oregon Culture Keeper, 7th generation Takelma Basket Weaver.
  • Jesse Jackson: Cow Creek Tribal Member, Teacher.
  • Dr. John M.H. Kelly: Skidegate Haida Elder and Tribal Member, Adjunct Research Professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Co-Director of CIRCLE (Centre for Indigenous Research, Culture, Language & Education), co-author of Encyclopedia of Native American Music of North America and We Interrupt This Program: Indigenous Media Tactics in Canadian Culture.
  • Four Arrows (Wahinkpe Topa), aka Don Trent Jacobs, Ph.D., Ed.D., Professor in the College of Educational Leadership at Fielding Graduate University, and author of Point of Departure: Returning to our More Authentic Worldview for Education and Survival; Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education; Unlearning the Language of Conquest, and Primal Awareness.
  • Thomas Doty: Storyteller for classroom visits, Editor, Scriptwriter, Audiobook Narrator, Cultural Consultant, Website Consultant.
  • Kris Kibbee: Educational Consultant, Common Core Specialist, Spanish Translator, Editor.
  • Irina Doty: Webmaster and Website Designer.
  • Michele Warrence-Schreiber: Ashland School District Literacy Coach, Editor.
  • Dylana Garfas: Walker Elementary 4th grade Teacher beta tested the work in her class.
  • Don Harriss: Sound Recording Engineer (audio books), and Music Producer (songs).

Author  •  Storyteller

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Tish McFadden lives in Ashland, Oregon where she is a published author (Wilderness Press, AdventureKEEN, and Anthology Works), a published songwriter (Big Round Records and Rum Tum Music), and music educator. She is also a former United States Forest Service archaeologist and historian -- the career that originally introduced her to Agnes Baker Pilgrim, spiritual elder of the Takelma people. More recently, Agnes Baker Pilgrim became the inspiration for Tish's book series and educational program, Upriver to Morning. Tish's occupation as an author, educator, musician, performer, and recording artist spans over thirty years. Upriver to Morning is a synthesis of her life's work in cultural resource preservation, writing, and music.

Thomas Doty is a native storyteller. Since 1981, he has traveled the countryside performing traditional and original stories. He learned his art and native cultural traditions from elders, including listening to Grandma Maude, the family storyteller. Doty was born in southern Oregon where he still lives. He is descended from Irish and English settlers who settled in the Rogue Valley in the 1800s, and has family connections to Takelma and Shasta ancestors of the region. He is the author of several books, including Doty Meets Coyote, published in 2016 by Blackstone Publishing. His stories have been broadcast on Public Radio, and he is the recipient of a Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from the national American Indian Program. He has been called, "A Cultural Treasure" and "A Master of his Art."

Artist & Illustrator

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Laura Winslow grew up in a home filled with creativity. Her mother was a watercolorist and instilled in her the love of the medium and the artist eye. After working in advertising art and selling her illustrations at Henri Brendels in NYC, Laura married, and raised a family. To keep up with her art, she taught art classes to children, and she is still involved in teaching art, and doing workshops.

"I love to instill the wonderful principals of art into students," says Laura, "and turn their eyes and hearts to appreciate beautiful art and enjoy doing it themselves. I am now illustrating children's books, a dream come true, and thoroughly enjoy working with authors to bring to life their characters and stories in full color."

Laura illustrated Tish McFadden's previous book, Song of the Redwing.

Illustrations from Song of the Redwing (PDF)



"Tish is a truly gifted storyteller! The students were deeply engaged by her story, and as she read, they were mesmerized by the themes and symbolism in Upriver to Morning. Now more than ever, the connectedness to our local native cultures and appreciation for the wisdom of our elders is of upmost importance.

"Her beautiful story perfectly weaves information about the Takelma tribe, local geography, and themes of friendship and caring for one another, which is perfect for elementary aged children. Thank you for offering your book and reading to my class. We absolutely loved your book!"

Dylana Garfas, Grade 4 Teacher, Walker Elementary School, Ashland, OR

"Upriver to Morning sings! The language is rich and purposeful, the story is native and true. Supplemented with story theatre, Upriver to Morning can be used to build fluency and deepen comprehension. Songs accompanying each chapter ring out, are catchy, and seep into your heart.

"Upriver to Morning is a multipurpose text, used across the curriculum to enhance learning. Children need story and music and Tish offers them both. Children will grow with Upriver to Morning. They will ripple it out."

Michele Warrence-Schreiber, Editor, Ashland School District Literacy Coach, Ashland, OR

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"Upriver to Morning is a journey into interiors. As readers, we travel with Salmon through the interior landscape of the wild Rogue River world of the Takelmas -- the lifeblood of their homeland -- with all the wonder that getting to know an ancient place has to teach us.

"It is also a journey into the interior of each reader, guided by Salmon and his friends who know the way. The journey awakens universal life lessons that live in each of us, eager to emerge, there at journey's end, in the wise light of Morning Star."

Thomas Doty, Storyteller, Cultural Consultant, Editor

"As an educator with more than 25 years' experience I see myriad applications for the Upriver to Morning book series in the classroom, across content areas and grade levels. The series lends itself to thematic teaching combining science, social studies, language arts, drama, and music. The alignment to the Common Core State Standards makes this even easier.

"One advantage of Upriver to Morning is the fact that the books are available in both English and Spanish making them useful in an English-Spanish bilingual classroom. Teachers in early elementary can use the series to teach students expressive ways to describe their local geography, both in the community and surrounding areas."

Kris Kibbee, Curriculum Specialist

"I cried at the integrity, wisdom, truthfulness, and purity of voice. I wish all kids access to these marvelous creatures. This is the kind of world I crave kids' return to: nature, animals, interdependence, and respect. The honor of and appreciation for nature is what America so terribly and immediately needs. McFadden fuses fiction with biology, history, and cultural anthropology. Her prose is simply beautiful. The reader recognizes the significance of Salmon's journey."

Jennie Englund, MS Ed. English Professor

"These five carefully crafted teaching stories, sourced from a beloved Takelma Elder, bring forth an ancient wisdom that will touch the hearts and souls of all children. Guided by other- than-human sentient life forms, from the salmon to the stars, they offer ways to augment school curriculum and instruction in ways that will serve to bring back foundational understandings for how to live in flowing balance once again."

Four Arrows, Professor at Fielding Graduate University


"This is Grandma Agnes Pilgrim, the International Grandma. I'm your Grandma. Someday I pray that you will hear my voice and that you will grow up and be grey-headed like me. When you read this book, you will become an instant teacher. And you will tell people, young and old, to ripple it out so it will spread around because this is true stuff. These are the true teachings. And so, with all the love in my heart, I pray that you can do just that. Ripple it out."

Agnes Baker Pilgrim, Takelma Elder and Spiritual Leader

Grandma Aggie's Teachings


In Agnes Baker Pilgrim's book and audiobook, Grandma Says: Wake Up World!, Tish McFadden identified 25 essential and universal teachings that she included in the narrative of Upriver to Morning.

Grandma Aggie's 25 Teachings (PDF)

Contact Us!


Tish McFadden
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Thomas Doty
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