Thomas Doty – Storyteller


A New Native Story by Tish McFadden

Cultural  •  Environmental  •  Bilingual  •  Educational

Updated 6/6/2020  |  Latest News  |  Refresh

Takelma elder Grandma Aggie passed away on November 27, 2019. Here is Tish McFadden's tribute to our inspiration and our friend.

Taowhywee Agnes Baker Pilgrim (PDF)


Upriver to Morning includes a book, audiobook, story theater script, songs, and comprehensive tools for teachers. Written by Tish McFadden, this engaging story dramatizes the teachings of Takelma elder and spiritual leader Agnes Baker Pilgrim.

Upriver to Morning weaves inter-generational themes within the context of Salmon's year-long journey, from the Pacific Ocean to the Rogue River's source at Boundary Springs.

Details of the project are described on this web page, or you can get an overview here: Upriver to Morning (PDF).

Upriver to Morning has an online presence in three locations: here on this web page, on our website and on Facebook. We also have a brochure and rack card.

Support Upriver to Morning

Make a tax deductible contribution to Upriver to Morning and 5% will be donated to the Agnes Baker Pilgrim Fund.

A New Native Story


Upriver to Morning is a journey-to-wisdom story set in the native landscape of southwest Oregon. Written by Tish McFadden, the five-chapter book 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.

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Here's more information about the story.

Our Latest News


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In June and October of 2019, Tish McFadden interviewed Takelma elder Agnes Baker Pilgrim on the banks of the Rogue River. Watch Interviews.


In November of 2019, TV host and educator John Letz interviewed Thomas Doty about native storytelling and culture, and Tish McFadden about her Upriver to Morning project. Watch Interviews.


In July of 2019, Nancy Bloom interviewed Tish and Thomas for two segments of her show, Life Passages: The Soul's Journey. Watch Interviews.

Where We Are in the World

Upriver to Morning takes place in southwest Oregon in the ancient homeland of the Takelma people. The story begins at the mouth of the Rogue River where it flows into the Pacific Ocean. Over the course of a year, Salmon and his friends journey upriver to the beginning of the river at Boundary Springs.

Map of the Rogue River (PDF)

Our Takelma World (Audio Recording)

Since the Old Time, native people have shared their stories and made maps of their homeland with images carved and painted on the rocks. Here's a modern rock writing map of Upriver to Morning and a guide to the symbols.

A Journey Upriver – Map (PDF)

Guide to Native Rock Writings (PDF)


Rogue River and Lower Table Rock. Watercolor by Upriver to Morning artist and illustrator Laura Winslow.

View Larger Image (PDF)

Notes on Takelma Culture


Updated 5/14/2020  |  Refresh

#20 – The Importance of Remembering

What's worth remembering is stored in stories. Sharing stories keeps the Takelma people strong, protected and moving ahead. In Upriver to Morning, Salmon and his friends spend the winter telling stories. Revisiting this storehouse of cultural and personal memories gives them the wisdom and strength to continue their journey. Their stories keep them safe. Near the beginning of their story together, Coyote tells Salmon to look to the stars. "Each one has a story. You have a story too," he says. "Stories and stars remind us of where we've been, and where we are going." Throughout his long swim, Salmon never forgets this. "Stories and stars," he tells himself over and over. "Our guides and guardians are stories and stars."

Read More Notes

Agnes Baker Pilgrim – Takelma Elder

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"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."

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.

Read Aggie's Teachings (PDF)

Agnes Baker Pilgrim

This Grandma Aggie page includes her biography with photos, videos and audio recordings.

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Excerpts from Upriver to Morning


From Chapter 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. Programs have been done for diverse audiences, ranging in age from five to ninety-five. Promotional materials are in the Press Kit for Sponsors.

View Sample Flier (PDF)

Stories and Songs

On June 24, 2019, Tish and Thomas shared Upriver to Morning stories and songs at a youth camp at Willow-Witt Ranch in the Cascade Mountains of southern Oregon.

On January 13, 2020, Tish visited a kindergarten class at Helman Elementary School in Ashland, Oregon.

View Willow-Witt Photos (PDF)

View Helman School Photos (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.
  • Bilingual versions in English and Spanish.
  • Audiobook.
  • Story Theater script in English and Spanish.
  • Original songs.
  • Production of a short film, interviewing Agnes Baker Pilgrim about her teachings that inspired Upriver to Morning.
  • 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 classroom tools available to educators.

Here's the Team!

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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: Author of Upriver to Morning, Concept Design, Project Manager, Songwriter, Presenter, and Educational Outreach.
  • Thomas Doty: Cultural Consultant, Website Consultant, Editor, Scriptwriter, Audiobook Narrator, Presenter and Storyteller.
  • Agnes Baker Pilgrim (Taowhywee): Inspiration for Upriver to Morning, Takelma Spiritual Leader, Founding member of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, Source of 25 teachings, and Subject of Tish's films.
  • Laura Winslow: Artist and Illustrator.
  • Kris Kibbee: Educational Consultant, Common Core Specialist, Spanish Translator, and Manuscript Editor.
  • Don Harriss: Sound Recording Engineer (audio books), Music Producer (songs), Soundtrack Composer for films, and Book Designer.
  • Irina Summer: Webmaster and Website Designer.
  • Julie Norman: Outreach Consultant and Copy Editor.
  • Mary Buckley Mikkelsen: Theater Designer and Cultural Consultant.
  • Diane Garcia: Fundraising and Outreach.
  • William G. Horton: Educator, Theater Director and Theater Consultant.
  • Stephanie Craig: Grand Ronde Tribal Member, Oregon Folklife Network's Oregon Culture Keeper, 7th generation Takelma Basket Weaver, Collection Specialist at the Grand Ronde Museum.
  • Jesse Jackson: Cow Creek Tribal Member, High school Principal.
  • 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.
  • Michele Warrence-Schreiber: Literacy Coach, Editor.
  • Dylana Garfas: 4th Grade Teacher who beta tested the Upriver to Morning program in her classroom.
  • Amy Kneeland, Kathleen Mateas, Lauren McGowne: 2nd Grade Teachers who beta tested the Upriver to Morning program in her classroom..

Author  •  Storyteller

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Tish McFadden lives in Ashland, Oregon. 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 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)

Illustrations from Upriver to Morning (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, 4th Grade Teacher, Walker Elementary School, Ashland, OR

"Indigenous wisdom jumps off the pages and into young hearts and minds right along with Salmon and friends as they Journey courageously into their future. Through story, song, and gorgeous illustration, children are engaged at all levels with lessons of kindness and responsibility, patience and perseverance, care for their communities and the earth. Since every journey is, in the end, an interior journey toward growth, Upriver to Morning, and the Takelma teaching on which it is based, helps young people make sense of their own passages."

Jennifer E. Joss, Ph.D.

"Thank you so much for coming in and sharing your amazing story, Upriver to Morning, and its songs with my class. What a gift! I so appreciate your ability to engage students -- with your clever characters, the excitement of the story, and the movements you included."

Amy Kneeland, 2nd Grade Teacher, Walker Elementary School, Ashland, OR

"Listening to stories is how we are built to learn. The nuggets of wisdom in Upriver to Morning sink in and help us know how to live as Earthlings."

Julie Norman, M.A., Environmental Educator, Copy Editor, 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

"Gold Hill Friends of the Library was honored to recently host author Tish McFadden and storyteller Thomas Doty at the Gold Hill Library. A large and enthusiastic audience was excited to hear about this upcoming journey to wisdom story based on the universal teachings of Takelma elder Agnes Baker Pilgrim. We look forward to the completion of the Upriver to Morning project so we can have them return and share its success."

Gold Hill Friends of the Library, Gold Hill, OR

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"Tish McFadden and Thomas Doty's presentation at our 2019 Forest and Farm Nature Camp was engaging, educational, fun and important! Thomas shared traditional native Takelma stories and Tish delivered songs and excerpts from her new native book, Upriver to Morning: A Journey to Wisdom, inspired by the teachings of local Takelma elder, Agnes Baker Pilgrim. The campers were attentive and eager to participate."

Suzanne Willow & Lanita Witt, Willow-Witt Ranch

"As an educator with more than 25 years' experience I see myriad applications for the Upriver to Morning book in the classroom, across content areas and grade levels. The story 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 book is available in both English and Spanish making it useful in an English-Spanish bilingual classroom. Teachers in early elementary can use the story to teach students expressive ways to describe their local geography, both in the community and surrounding areas.

"I had an opportunity to read the story, Upriver to Morning, to my friends' grandkids while I was in Ottawa. Both grandparents and grandkids loved the book. My friend John studied at Southern Oregon University and said that the story brought vivid images of the area to mind, as well as reminding him of some of the cultural history of the Takelma people. His wife, Darlene, is an English major and absolutely loved the rich, descriptive language and imagery. She too has visited Southern Oregon. The granddaughters also loved the story, especially how everyone accepted and helped each other."

Kris Kibbee, Curriculum Specialist

"Congratulations for this life-affirming, richly creative project. I have great respect for the way you are taking the time to allow all of the elements to find their complete expression. This project is a tremendous example of a multi-faceted curriculum that teaches on many levels. A deep, educational, and yet entertaining, experience for everyone. And an appropriate tribute to the memory of Agnes Baker Pilgrim and all she stood for."

David Alexander, Photographer, Los Angeles, CA

"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

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"Upriver to Morning, by Tish McFadden, is a beautiful story that allows readers to follow Salmon's journey up the Rogue River to Boundary Springs. It weaves together important teachings from the Takelma people, local geography, and themes of kindness, friendship, and respect. There are so many learning experiences that can be applied to the elementary classroom with this story.

"Tish came to our Kindergarten classroom to share the first chapter of Upriver to Morning, along with songs she wrote that tie together the journeys of Salmon, Red-tailed Hawk, and Coyote; and the importance of sharing the teachings of our ancestors. Our students were engaged by this wonderful story and Tish's teaching style. Her joyfulness and bright smile bring love and happiness to children. It is so important that children learn about those who came before us, the Takelma in the Rogue Valley, and I am grateful for this work and opportunity for collaboration and connection."

Thank you!!

Jordan Lambert, Student Teacher, Helman Elementary School, Ashland, OR

"This carefully crafted teaching story, sourced from a beloved Takelma Elder, brings 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, it offers 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

Contact Us!


Tish McFadden
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Thomas Doty
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