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KLAMATH-MODOC. The ancestral lands of the Klamaths and Modocs span southern Oregon, northeastern California, and parts of northern Nevada. Prior to 1820, approximately 2,000 Klamaths and 1,000 Modocs lived in this area. Their numbers decreased dramatically after contact with non-Indians. Scholars claim that these tribes were once the same and that the Modocs split from the Klamaths and moved south after 1780. The tribes' origin stories give a different account, suggesting divergent points of origins, social structures, and environment. The two tribes belong to the same language group, Lutuami, but speak different dialects. The designation "Maklak" or "Moadoc" translates as "southern people."

The political differences that caused the Modocs to split from the Klamaths do not mean that the Klamaths and the Modocs cut ties with each other. Their relation-ship developed along both friendly and hostile lines through trade, intermarriage, and warfare.

The Klamaths' traditional environment was humid, whereas the Modocs' homeland was arid and experienced harsh winters. Subsistence for both depended on the marshes that produced camas, wocus, waterfowl, fish, and small game animals. Housing depended on the season. During the winter months the Modocs and Klamaths lived in earth lodges or pit houses. In summer they set up temporary housing near fishing, hunting, and gathering areas. Both tribes maintained a sexual division of labor. Women wove intricate baskets, tended children, and gathered, prepared, and cooked food; men hunted, protected villages, raided neighboring tribes, and fought enemies. Male leadership depended on a person's ability to orate, fight, and provide for the community. Although men held public positions, women's roles in selecting and advising leaders were equally important. Because of their smaller numbers and environment, Modoc leadership was more flexible than that of the Klamaths.

Both the Klamaths and the Modocs were important in the trade networks linking California to the Pacific Northwest. The Klamaths had direct access to major trade centers, especially the Dalles, while the Modocs played an important role in securing captives for the slave trade to the north. Contact with non-Indians further distinguished the Klamaths and the Modocs. The Klamaths came into contact with non-Indians first through material

goods and then, beginning in 1826, with fur traders. The Modocs also came in contact with trade goods, but the volume of exchange in Modoc territory was minimal. The discovery of gold in the late 1840s changed this. The Klamaths and Modocs contended with thousands of miners and settlers moving through and settling in their territories. The Modocs took exception to the wagon trains moving through their lands and polluting the area. They sought to stop these incursions by frightening newcomers away. The Klamaths, reluctant to take action against newcomers, tried to develop friendly relations with them.

In line with federal Indian policy, the Klamath treaty of 1864 created a reservation on Klamath lands where the Klamaths and Modocs would settle in exchange for protection against settlers and miners. During the reservation era, the Klamaths took center stage in relations with agency officials. Allen David emerged as a leader on the reservation through the end of the nineteenth century. When the Modocs moved to the reservation they experienced agency neglect and came into conflict with the Klamaths. Eventually, half the Modocs returned to California under the leadership of Kintpuash (Captain Jack). This migration set off conflicts with white settlers, leading to the Modoc War of 18721873. At its end, four Modoc men, including Kintpuash, were executed, and 153 Modocs were exiled to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.

The Klamaths and Modocs who remained on the Klamath reservation secured a living by creating irrigation

projects and a lumber business. They established a council under the supervision of agency officials and have successfully managed affairs to the present. The exiled Modocs suffered a dramatic population decline, but through hard work and determination they became successful farmers. The Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 allotted land to individuals on reservations throughout the United States. Although this act adversely affected many Native Americans, it enabled fifty-one Modocs to return to Oregon in 1909.

Twentieth-century Indian policy disrupted the course of economic development on the Klamath reservation. Most important, in 1954 the federal authorities "terminated" the Klamaths and Modocs in an effort to make them self-sufficient and less dependent on government services. Federal protections were withdrawn and individuals were allowed to sell property previously held in trust. As a consequence, many Klamaths lost their lumber enterprises. In 1978 the Modocs were recognized and in 1985 the Klamaths were reinstated as a federally recognized tribe. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Klamaths and Modocs still resided in Oregon, and descendants of those Modocs exiled to Indian Territory still resided in Oklahoma under the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma. In 2002 approximately 3,100 people claimed Klamath ancestry and 600 claimed Modoc ancestry.


Curtin, Jeremiah. Myths of the Modocs: Indian Legends of the Northwest. Boston: Little, Brown, 1912.

Howe, Carrol B. Ancient Tribes of the Klamath Country. Portland, Ore.: Binford and Mort, 1968.

. Ancient Modocs of California and Oregon. Portland, Ore.: Binford and Mort, 1979.

Ray, Verne F. Primitive Pragmatists: The Modoc Indians of Northern California. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1963.

Stern, Theodore. The Klamath Tribe: A People and Their Reservation. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1966.

Rebecca Bales

See also Modoc War ; Tribes: California ; Tribes: Northwestern .