GRANTS PASS, Ore. — An honored and respected member of the Southern Oregon community passed away on Wednesday morning. Agnes Baker Pilgrim, known to most as "Grandma Aggie," died in the hospital at the age of 95.
Aggie was the most senior elder of the Takelma Tribe and an alumnus of Southern Oregon University (under the old moniker of Southern Oregon State College). She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in Natives American studies in 1985, when she was 61.
In August of this year, the university presented her with the SOU President's Award — the highest honor it offers to a distinguished member of the community.
"Grandma Aggie possessed a larger-than-life personality and wisdom to match. She took it upon herself to preserve and protect Native American culture in our region and has left the rest of us a foundation of success on which to continue her work," said SOU President Linda Schott. "Her compassion, integrity and courage will continue to affect us and to serve as yardsticks that we can measure ourselves against.”
Aggie lived a long and varied life — spending time as a singer, a nightclub bouncer, a jail barber and a logger in her early years. In the 1970s she embarked on a more spiritual journey, working as a manager and social worker with the United Indian Lodge in Crescent City, California before joining the Cultural Heritage and Sacred Lands Committee of the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz.
After graduating from SOU, she co-founded the university's Konoway Nika Tillicum Native American Youth Academy, an eight-day residential program for Native American middle school and high school students. She received the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2002.
In 2004, Aggie co-founded the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, an alliance of female elders who promote protection of the earth and awareness of Native culture.
Aggie has been recognized as a "living treasure" by the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz.