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A village revived Edison Chiloquin’s birthday to be celebrated Sunday at Pla-ik-ni Village
followed by: Edison Chiloquin: ‘Conscience of the Klamaths’

                                           By LEE JUILLERAT, Herald and News, August 29, 2008   

Calvin Hecocta, left, Monica Yellowtail and Angie Wilson stand by the sacred fire at Edison Chiloquin’s Pla-ik-ni Village. The fire will be relit during Sunday’s gathering, which will fall on what would have been Chiloquin’s 85th birthday.

CHILOQUIN — The spirit of Edison Chiloquin, a Klamath Indian who gained international attention when he refused to sell tribal lands, will be invoked Sunday when his family and friends celebrate at the Pla-ik-ni Village.

The traditional village, along the banks of the Sprague River near the city of Chiloquin, hosted seasonal gatherings, including celebrations on Edison Chiloquin’s birthday each Aug. 31. Chiloquin, who died in 2003, would have been 85 Sunday.

Repairs under way

Two of his granddaughters, Angie Wilson and Monica Yellowtail of Klamath Falls, are repairing the village area, which includes an outdoor kitchen, riverside sweat lodges and the Sacred Fire site.

“It’s part of us,” said the 38-year-old Wilson, noting Chiloquin’s presence is evident. “I feel it’s on our generation to get back to what my grandpa wanted to happen here. He’s passed on, but it feels like he’s still here.”

“I was just 5 years old,” said Yellowtail, 33, of her early years at the village. “I remember being out here. It was just a lot of playing for me. I always looked forward to summers because we’d camp out here.”

Yellowtail and Wilson have worked with others, including Calvin Hecocta, a Klamath who was a friend of Chiloquin.

“Coming here was like a revival, a reawakening. The spirit that I carried inside of me from long ago connected with this sacred place here,” said the 65-year-old Hecocta. “This place tells me, remember the voices, the sound of the wind, the land and the people.”

Re-beginning of the village

Hecocta, Yellowtail and Wilson see Sunday’s gathering as a rebeginning for the village. People — Indian and non-Indian — are encouraged to spend part of or the entire day, which will begin with breakfast followed by a welcome ceremony, talking circle, drumming and dancing. Participants are asked to bring food to share for a lunch.

The sacred fire will be relit for the day.

Eventually, Chiloquin’s family hopes to again host school groups and others and rekindle the periodic gatherings. Plans include rebuilding a collapsed earth lodge, getting grants to install restrooms and, during Sunday’s gathering, “asking for protection of the land.”

That’s exactly what we’re asking, respect our Indian land, and we’re asking our own people, too,” Wilson said, noting visitors have driven through and littered the village.

“I feel really strongly this place is spiritually protected,” Yellowtail said. “Our grandfather’s spirit is still strong.”

If you go

To reach Pla-ik-ni Village:

From Chiloquin, follow the Sprague River Highway less than a mile to Twin Rivers Drive. Turn left up the hill for less than a quarter-mile to an intersection with the sign, “Edison’s Camp.”

Turn right on the dirt and gravel road and continue straight 1.3 miles to the parking area outside the village.

Edison Chiloquin: ‘Conscience of the Klamaths’

Herald and News August 29, 2008

Edison Chiloquin, born Aug. 31, 1923, in Chiloquin, lived his entire life there, except while serving in the Army during World War II from 1943 to 1945.

He became known as the “conscience of the Klamaths,” a title he disdained, for his refusal to accept a $273,000 payment for Klamath Tribal lands when the Tribe was terminated in 1974.

“It would be like selling a part of you or a part of our ancestors,” Chiloquin said of his refusal. “This is sacred land where my grandfather lived. His bones are here. I belong here.” For 5-1/2 years, he negotiated with government officials to keep 580 acres of then-Winema National Forest land near and along the Sprague River. He and his family and friends maintained a sacred fire to “have the smoke from the fire carry prayers for the land to the Creator.”

Chiloquin Act

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the Chiloquin Act into public law. It wasn’t until April 8, 1985, that boundaries for the Pla-ik-ni Village were finalized. For years Chiloquin hosted public gatherings, school field trips, college groups, people from other tribes, visitors from foreign countries and people who showed interest in cultural activities.

— Lee Juillerat

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