Indigenous communities set to converge

Music, spirituality and storytelling will mix in a two-day event dedicated to peace and forgiveness starting Friday in Ashland. "A Gathering on Peace and Forgiveness" brings together three leaders from indigenous communities from three corners of the globe.

Southern Oregon Native American elder Agnes Baker-Pilgrim will be the keynote speaker at the event. She will be joined by Hiroshima survivor Takashi Thomas Tanemori and Amazon rainforest conservationist Flavio Santi.

"Every single one of them has a story to tell about peace and forgiveness," event organizer Kelley Springer said. "All these people have a great deal to tell us about what they've learned."

Tanemori was 8 when his family was killed by an atomic bomb dropped on his Japanese homeland in 1945. His autobiography, "The Bridge to Forgiveness," traces his journey to forgiveness toward those responsible for the deaths of his family members and countrymen. He founded the Silkworm Peace Institute and speaks regularly at peace events around the country.

"His having to overcome the unthinkable and come to a place of peace with the people who bombed his whole place is inspirational," Springer said.

Santi works to rebuild indigenous traditions in Ecuador. He helped found the group Amazanga, a collection of Quechua and Shuar tribes in South America that works to protect the rainforest while keeping tribal knowledge of natural medicine and culture alive.

"This is one of the most proactive groups of forest protectors in the Amazon," event organizer Andrew Mount said. "They've been directly involved in opposing extraction industries of pharmaceuticals, petroleum and timber. They have the power to bring tens of thousands of indigenous people together. They have significant clout and have been the victims of direct oppression and violence."

Part of the purpose in bringing Santi so far north is to help build contacts between the tribal coalitions here with those in South America, Mount said.

"The idea is to connect him to tribal elders in the north so a vision of creating tribal connections can come about," Mount said, referring to a modern prophetic "vision" popular among some tribal communities of a joining of the condor (tribes of South America) with the eagle (tribes of North America).

The path to the gathering itself is also a tale of visions.

Springer started a group of healing practitioners in Ashland in August 2009 called the Circle of Nations Wellness Center based at the Well Springs.

"I had a vision of bringing these speakers together," Springer said. "When I met Flavio, I shook his hand and I had a vision of him at a storytelling circle in Ashland."

Santi was open to the idea, but it wasn't until this weekend that the busy schedules of Santi, Baker-Pilgrim and Tanemori could be reconciled.

Despite the range of issues contained within the two-day gathering, forgiveness is the primary focus, according to Springer.

"We're at a time right now when coming together is vital to our survival," Springer said. "Forgiveness is a key."

The gathering starts on Friday evening, with a musical performance by local Grammy-nominated group Gentle Thunder. There also will be music from Springer on harp and vocals and Jessica Ripper-Amani Chisty on tabla and vocals.

On Saturday, a daylong workshop is planned with Baker-Pilgrim, Tanemori and Santi. Tanemori will speak on "Sharing the Honored Ways of the Samurai" from 9 a.m. to noon. From 1 to 5 p.m., Santi will present the "Story of Guayusa" with Baker-Pilgrim and the audience. The presentation will explore the idea of "forest protectors" and is part of an offering for tribal alliance with Baker-Pilgrim.

Saturday closes with a talk from Baker-Pilgrim from 6 to 7 p.m. following a "Feast and Celebration" from 5 to 6 p.m.

Friday events are from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Havurah Shir Hadash, 185 Mountain Ave., with a suggested donation of $10 to $20.

Saturday events are from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at a private retreat in Ashland. Participants will meet in the parking lot at Simple Faith Church, 1033 Tolman Creek Road. Indigenous people will be admitted for free.

For information, see the Web site To register, call 541-535-8134.

Myles Murphy is a reporter and an editor for the Tidings. Reach him at or at 541-482-3456 ext. 222.

Share This Story