Thomas Doty – Storyteller
Leaving and Returning
For thousands of years, the Takelma village of Ti'lomikh prospered along the Rogue River in southern Oregon. This mile-long village of plank houses was the largest in the area, and each spring, hosted hundreds and hundreds of visitors at a Sacred Salmon Ceremony. By the mid 1800s, ravaged by disease, mining and war, the village was a ghost town.
At the end of the Rogue River War, five Trails of Tears left the Rogue Valley. Rounded up by the federal government, Takelmas and their native neighbors were shipped and force-marched hundreds of miles to a skeletal cluster of shacks and shelters that was the Siletz Indian Reservation of 1856. With only a basket of food each, and the clothes on their backs, the trip to the reservation was long and sad. Many died along the way of various diseases, and many more died during the first winter from starvation, exposure and sadness.
Families were destroyed. An ancient culture was fractured. Homeland became a memory.
Today, though the original people and their plank houses are long gone from Ti'lomikh, the annual Sacred Salmon Ceremony has been revived. Sitting around fires at night on the riverbank, one can almost hear the voices of the Old Ones, as a few of the people bring their stories home.