The name Modoc (pronounced MO-dock ) may mean “southerners.” Some Sahaptian speakers called the people on the Klamath Reservation, including the Modoc, aígspaluma, “people of the chipmunks.” The Modoc called themselves Mqlaqs or Ma Klaks (“the people”).
The Modoc formerly occupied about 5,000 square miles (12,950 square kilometers) on the California-Oregon border. Their tribal headquarters is located in Miami, Oklahoma. Most of the people live in California, Oregon, and Oklahoma. The present separation of the tribe is a result of the Modoc War of 1872–73.
Before contact with Europeans there were about two thousand Modoc. In the 1990 U.S. Census, 521 people identified themselves as Modoc. In the 2000 census, 573 people said they were Modoc, and 1,585 claimed to have some Modoc background.
Origins and group affiliations
The modern Modoc are descendants of the Modoc group who were forcibly removed to Oklahoma in 1873. The tribe was divided into three groups: the Gumbatwas or “people of the west,” the Kokiwas or “people of the far country,” and the Paskanwas or “river people.” The Modoc traded with the Shasta and Achomawi. Their major enemies were the Klamath and the Paiute, with whom they were forced to live.
The Modoc were an optimistic people who saw the world as a friendly place. They first lived in the Lakes District of Oregon and California, where they hunted, fished, and gathered food. Modoc land was fertile, and the people believed that, if they worked hard, it would provide them with the things they needed. But their history has been a harsh one, and only in recent years have they been able to reclaim a part of their heritage.
Arrival of Europeans
For centuries before the coming of Europeans, the Modoc people roamed the land around Lost River, Tule Lake, Willow Creek, and Ness Lake, in what is now northern California and southern Oregon. They hunted and gathered food and harvested reeds and grasses to weave clothing and baskets. They traded with some neighboring tribes and raided others. As a result of these interactions, they heard about white explorers, and they acquired European goods. They were quick to adopt any goods they considered superior to their own. Their use of steel knives, hatchets, iron pots, mirrors, and cloth soon changed their way of life.
By the mid-1830s the Modoc owned guns and horses, which brought further changes. They could now hunt deer, and they began to wear buckskin clothing in place of grass or fur garments. Copying the Plains Indians, they applied war paint to their faces when they went on raids. In time they even took non-Native American names.
1843: John Charles Frémont arrives in Modoc territory, and heads a survey and exploring party.
1847: Travel on the Applegate Trail disrupts Modoc game hunting. The tribe attacks wagon trains in retaliation.
1848: Modoc population falls to about 900 after epidemics.
1864: In October, the Council Grove Treaty concludes. Modoc, Klamath, and Paiute tribes are relocated to a single reservation in Oregon.
1872: The Modoc War begins. Captain Jack (Kintpuash) refuses to return to the reservation and leads a group of Modoc in revolt.
1978: The Modoc tribe gains federal recognition.
1983: The Modoc Tribal Complex, the tribe’s headquarters, is completed.
1986: The tribes on Klamath Reservation regain federal recognition.
Conflict with settlers
In 1843 American explorer John Charles Frémont (1813–1890) brought a team of white surveyors and explorers into Modoc territory. The party went about their business without incident, but when Frémont returned with another team three years later, nearby Klamath Indians attacked and killed four men. The whites burned a Klamath village in retaliation. Thereafter, both the Klamath and the Modoc feared Americans.
By 1847 the Applegate Trail was heavily traveled by settlers on their way to the Oregon Territory. The settlers frightened away game on Modoc hunting grounds, making food scarce. Tragedy struck when diseases brought by the settlers killed more than one-third of the Modoc tribe. During the summer of 1847 a group of Native Americans, possibly Modoc, attacked a wagon train and stole the horses; several dozen whites were killed during the raid.
In 1852 a wagon train of settlers again entered Modoc territory. The tribe killed 62 of the 65 people at Bloody Point, along the shore of Tule Lake. They took two girls prisoner, and one man escaped. He reached California and, when he told his tale, the settlers organized to bury the dead and avenge the deaths. The group, under the leadership of Jim Crosby, had one skirmish with the Modoc. Later Ben Wright, an Native American fighter, ambushed the tribe and killed about eighty Modocs.
The discovery of gold in the West brought even more settlers, and clashes with the Modoc became more frequent. Sometimes the Modoc were blamed for attacks carried out by neighboring tribes, and Americans retaliated against the Modoc, increasing the conflicts. Estimates indicate that the Modocs killed approximately three hundred settlers between 1846–73. Whites most likely killed a similar number of Modoc.
Council Grove Treaty
During the fierce winter of 1861–62 heavy snows killed plants and drove away wild game, causing starvation among the Modoc. The U.S. government offered to help the tribe if they signed a treaty giving up their lands. Modoc tribal chief Old Schonchin urged his people to agree, but younger warriors, including Captain Jack (Kintpuash; c. 1837–1873), strongly resisted such a move. For a few more years the Modoc continued their struggle to survive, and some men had to take jobs in a nearby mining town.
After continued pressure from the U.S. government, Old Schonchin signed the Council Grove Treaty at Fort Klamath in 1864. The treaty stated that the Modoc tribe would give up most of its land to the federal government and move to the Klamath Reservation in southern Oregon to live with their enemies, the Paiute (see entry) and the Klamath. In turn, the government agreed to send them food and supplies every year.
Problems with the Klamath
Once the three enemy tribes arrived on the reservation, problems arose. The reservation was located on former Klamath hunting grounds, and the Klamath felt this gave them special rights. They insisted that the Modoc give them a certain amount of their cut timber. They put obstacles in the way of Modoc fishermen, and they bothered Modoc women who were gathering seeds at the lake. To add to these hardships, U.S. government agents failed to provide the food and supplies that they had promised. It was not long before the Modoc on the reservation came to suffer from almost constant hunger.
In an attempt to reconcile the tribes, an Indian agent suggested a “democratic” means of self-government be adopted on the reservation. This would require electing leaders for a council similar to that of the U.S. Congress. This effort failed, and the Modoc requested a reservation of their own in California. The government turned them down.
Modoc War begins
An unhappy group of Modoc, led by Captain Jack, decided to take matters into their own hands. They left the reservation in 1870 and returned to Lost River, only to find it had been overrun by settlers. Nevertheless, they set up camp and began to hunt, fish, and visit in the nearby town of Eureka. Because they remained apart from white settlers, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs at first ignored their presence. Before long, though, white settlers demanded that the “renegades” be removed, and U.S. army troops tried to force them to return to the reservation.
Just before the outbreak of hostilities with American soldiers, Captain Jack declared: “I am not a dog! I am a man, if I am an Indian.… I and my men shall not be slaves for a race of people that is not any better than my people. I shall not live here. If the government refuses to protect my people, who shall I look to for protection?”
Captain Jack refused to obey the order of federal troops to return to the reservation. Instead he and his group fled south to the rugged lava beds of northeastern California, the place the Native Americans called “Land of Burnt Out Fires.” For nearly a year he and his small group avoided capture. In spite of being outnumbered, they won at least one battle and blocked all military attempts to flush them out.
Move to Oklahoma
Captain Jack finally agreed to a meeting to discuss peace. His followers were angry and called him a coward, and Captain Jack changed his plan. Convinced that if he killed the leaders of the army, U.S. troops would retreat, Captain Jack shot and killed several army officers.
His act sealed the Modocs’ fate. The army pursued them relentlessly. In the end Captain Jack was betrayed by a comrade. He and three other leaders of the revolt were caught, tried, and hanged. The remaining Modocs were exiled to Oklahoma to live with the Wyandotte, Peoria, and Ottawa (see entry) tribes at the Quapaw Agency.
The Modoc War was the single most costly Indian war in American history in terms of both money and the loss of human life. It was later estimated that the total cost to the U.S. government for the military campaign was about $1 million. If the government had simply bought land and established a reservation where Captain Jack suggested, the cost would have been about $20,000.
I Have Said Yes, and Thrown Away My Country
Captain Jack and his small band of Modocs resisted the army, but ended up surrendering. Jack was hanged on October 3, 1873. His sister, Mary, delivered a written copy of this speech to the peace commission on March 6, 1873, before the warfare began.
I am very sad.… I don’t want my people shot. I don’t want my men to go with guns any more. I have quit forever. I have buried the past, and don’t want to be mad for the past.… I don’t want to shoot or be shot. I don’t want anyone to get mad as quick as they did before. I want to live in peace.…
Let everything be wiped out, washed out, and let there be no more blood. I have got a bad heart about those murderers. I have got but a few men and I don’t see how I can give them up. Will they give up their people who murdered my people while they were asleep? I never asked for the people who murdered my people.…
There must be no more bad talk. I will not. I have spoken forever. I want soldiers all to go home. I have given up now and want no more fuss. I have said yes, and thrown away my country.…
I don’t want to live here any more, because I can’t live here any more in peace. I wish to go to southern country and live in peace.…
I talk with my mouth. They have paper men to write down what I say.… I want and hope Mary will come back with message and say yes, just as I have said.
Vanderwerth, W. C. Indian Oratory: Famous Speeches by Noted Indian Chieftains. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971.
A new beginning
More than 4,000 acres of land were set aside in Oklahoma for the Modoc tribe. The people continued to suffer because of lack of food and clothing. Meanwhile the government adopted a new policy called allotment, and in 1891, reservation lands were divided into small plots for farming and given to the sixty-eight tribal members who remained there. Leftover land was sold to whites. The government believed Native Americans would assimilate faster—become more like whites—if they owned individual pieces of land.
During the half-century following allotment many of the Modoc became successful farmers in northeastern Oklahoma, but over time they lost many of their Native ways. In 1967 the Oklahoma Modoc once again banded together to form a tribal government, and they are now called the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma. The tribe was recognized by the federal government in 1978. Federally recognized tribes are those with which the U.S. government maintains official relations. Without federal recognition, the tribe does not exist as far as the government is concerned, and is not entitled to any financial or other help.
The tribe has headquarters in Miami, Oklahoma. The Modoc Tribal Complex, completed in 1983, houses the tribal office, library, and historical archives. In recent times the Modoc have been trying to reestablish a land base and preserve their culture.
Life with the Klamath
The Modoc who remained on the Klamath Reservation in Oregon, retained their rights to unallotted land, which enabled them to keep valuable timberland, an important source of income. By the 1950s they had become the second wealthiest tribe in the country.
Under the Termination Act of 1954, however, the federal government officially terminated the tribe’s federal recognition. Tribe members had to choose whether to withdraw from the tribe and receive their share of the assets or to have their land taken and placed in a private trust. Most voted to withdraw from the tribe. To pay their claims, the government sold most of the 880,000 acres of land.
In 1971 members who had left their land in trust asked to have the private trustee removed. The trustee decided this meant they wanted to sell the land and gave the title to the U.S. Forest Service. Until that time, the tribe had continued to hunt, gather, and fish there—rights they had been promised in the treaty. The state of Oregon, however, did not recognize their rights, and they were often harassed or arrested.
Five tribe members filed a lawsuit against the state in 1972 and won. The court upheld their treaty rights. In 1986 the tribe regained federal recognition. They are now eligible for government funds and services. They are also trying to revitalize their culture by translating books into Penutian and by returning to their traditional crafts, ceremonies, and religion.
According to Modoc beliefs, after the Creator made human beings and provided the food they needed, he and the other gods departed. In their place the Creator left animals who were inhabited by spirits, including Frog, Mole, Fish, Rattlesnake, Coyote, and Hawk. With their help, human beings could influence events in their world.
The Modoc prayed to the spirits of the Moon, stars, and sky. Most religious ceremonies took place in the sweathouse, a tiny, airtight hut where people could pour water over heated rocks to produce steam. The Modoc thought that sweating purified the body and prepared a person to request good health, hunting, or fortune from the spirits.
In the late 1800s some Modoc embraced the Ghost Dance Religion. A Paiute (see entry) named Wovoka (c. 1856–1932) started the religion after he had a vision. Wovoka predicted that one day whites would disappear and Native Americans would rise from the dead if everyone performed the Ghost Dance. Modoc dancers painted their faces red and drew two horizontal black lines on each cheek. They held hands and formed a circle around the fire, chanting and dancing.
During the 1870s, many of the Modoc people living in Indian Territory became members of the Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. Today, Modoc religion combines elements of Christianity and traditional Native rituals.
The Modoc were closely related to the Klamath tribe, and together they formed the independent language family, Penutian. The Modoc spoke the Lituami dialect. Originally the Klamath and Modoc were separate dialects, but it was easy for the speakers to understand each other.
By the early twenty-first century only one truly fluent Klamath speaker was alive, but several dozen elders remembered the language. Many books, though, have been written in the language, so they are being used to reconstruct the language. Many linguists (people who study languages) now label the two languages as one—Klamath-Modoc—and consider it endangered. Textbooks, however, are being translated into Penutian to help keep the language vital and strengthen the community. Some young people are also working to keep the language alive.
- waq lis?i … “How are you?”
- sepk’eec’a … “thank you”
- balaq hak … “hurry up”
- dwaa dal hoot … “What is that?”
- waq dal?i seesetk’ip … “What is your name?”
- kani dal hoot … “Who is that?”
- hiswaqs … “man”
- sn’eweets … “woman”
- watc … “dog”
- s’aba … “sun”
- s’aba … “moon”
- ’ambo … “water”
The chief of each village, always a male, gained his position through his skills at public speaking, good judgment, friendliness, tact, and ability to handle himself in a crisis. The most important way to get people to follow was by effective argument and persuasion. Chiefs were not elected by a vote, instead everyone in the entire village had to agree on their leader. A single village might have more than one leader who ruled with a council. The chief of the tribe was called la gi (leader).
In modern times the Oklahoma tribe is governed by the Modoc Tribal Council, made up of a chief, second chief, secretary-treasurer and two council members who serve four-year terms. Members of the council, the governing body for the tribe, serve four-year terms. Every enrolled tribal member over age 18 is part of the council.
On the Klamath Reservation the government is organized according to the 1953 constitution. All enrolled members of the tribe make up the general council. They elect a ten-member tribal council, which is composed of a chairperson, vice chairperson, secretary, treasurer, and six council members, who serve three-year terms. The tribe also has an Economic Self-Sufficiency Plan (ESSP) Core Team consisting of past chairpersons, present council members, consulting agencies, key individuals, and staff members. It sets policies and handles cultural, economic, environmental, educational, health, housing, and political issues.
For centuries the Modoc were hunters, fishermen, and gatherers who moved from place to place depending on the season. In spring they left their winter homes. The men fished. The women built drying racks to hold the day’s catch and gathered parsley roots. Later in the spring the group moved so the women could harvest a vegetable root called epos. During the summer the men traveled into the mountains to hunt deer and mountain sheep, leaving the women behind to harvest camas roots. Hunting trips continued until late summer, when full-time fishing resumed.
Men made canoes, built winter homes, and protected the tribe as needed. Women tended the children, gathered nuts and berries, dug for roots and bulbs, made baskets and clothing, and prepared and stored food. The tribe also traded with neighboring tribes and later with fur companies. Instead of money the Modoc used dentalium shells harvested on Vancouver Island that they received from the Shasta. They traded it to the Achomawi for shell beads, baskets, and skirts made of grass or pine nut string. They exchanged slaves with the Klamath for baskets, blankets, fishhooks, beads, clothing, axes, and spears.
In modern times Modoc people work in ranching, teaching, small businesses, and other professions. Casinos bring profits to both reservations; both also depend on tourism and recreation. Forestry still provides the Oregon Modoc with a significant portion of their income. In Oklahoma farming, livestock, pecan groves, and a variety of service and retail businesses help to support the people. In spite of this, unemployment rates are high on both reservations. Many people who need work are unable to find it.
In winter the Modoc lived in pit houses—earth-covered, circular dwellings with an entrance ladder sticking out the top. They dug a round pit, ranging from 15 to 40 feet (5 to 12 meters) in diameter and 3 to 4 feet (about 1 meter) deep. They sank timbers into the pit to support the rafters and to form a roof and walls. Woven mats of dried grass covered the roof and walls, which they topped with sheets of bark. They piled dirt from the pit on top as a final layer.
One entered by crawling across the roof and climbing down the ladder. The entrance also provided fresh air and light. Two or three families shared each pit house, and a central fire provided warmth. The people slept on mats made of rushes, and their fur blankets were stored at the outer edges of the house along the walls. They used a separate building made of grass mats for cooking.
The framework of Modoc summer homes was made of willow poles stuck into the ground and tied together at the top. Mats of woven grass covered the poles. Later winter homes were also made of mats, but these homes were longer and were erected over a shallow pit.
Clothing and adornment
In winter the Modoc wore moccasins, leggings, shirts, skirts, and robes made from deer or coyote skin. Fur or woven-grass robes were tied together and worn on top to provide added warmth. Woven rabbitskin, featherstrips, or birdskins were also used for robes. Wealthier people wore elkskin, puma, or bobcat robes with a fur hat. For added warmth, the Modoc stuffed their moccasins with shredded sagebrush bark. They greased their faces to prevent chapping and applied charcoal around their eyes to prevent snow blindness.
In summer the people wore loincloths (flaps of material that covered the front and back and were suspended from the waist) and skirts made of tule or other plentiful grasses. Grass clothing did not last long, but it was easily woven and replaced. Both genders wore these skirts.
Both men and women wore waterproof, basket-shaped hats woven from tule or rushes. The men’s hats were usually plain, but had a visor. The women’s often had decorative designs. In winter they sometimes wore fur hats with earflaps.
Men and women had long braids; men had two, women, one. They painted their faces red. Black paint signaled mourning, whereas white was used for dances. Men wore nosepins of bone, shells, or pine nuts. They pulled out their facial hair. Women tattooed their chins with two or three lines. Men carved designs into their chests and arms, then filled them with charcoal.
During fishing season the men caught trout, perch, and suckerfish. Women dried extra fish and stored it in baskets of woven grasses for later use. The men hunted rabbit, squirrel, duck, geese, prairie chickens, deer, elk, antelope, and sheep for both food and clothing. Women prepared the meat and dried some for winter. The tribe camped near streams so the men could more easily fish or hunt.
Later they moved on to another camp where the women dug for desert parsley, camas bulbs, and the root vegetable epos, as well as wild potatoes. They consumed some of these fresh, and dried others for winter use. Some camas bulbs were poisonous; these needed to be soaked before they were used. Women often baked camas in earth ovens, then sun-dried it for storage. They also ground the seeds of the pond lily between stones and ate them in a variety of ways.
Families who did not gather and store sufficient food during the rest of the year could starve in the winter. Those who did gather food buried it, covered the spot with grass mats and baskets, and kept its location secret.
Until age six, boys and girls played together and competed in footraces, swimming, tops, and sometimes target shooting. Before sunrise an elder man in the household would wake the children for a swim and a run. Older children watched younger ones. They also learned to perform their adult duties by observing and assisting their elders. Girls learned to dig roots, get wood and water, cook, and care for babies. Boys learned to hunt, fish, and fight. When a boy killed his first game, his mother gave it away to someone who was not a relative, and the boy was praised for his generosity.
Lessons in manners, culture, and proper behavior came from elders who told stories around the fire. Stories of the Owl were used to scare naughty children. Parents sometimes scolded or whipped youngsters who did not behave.
During the 1870s Modoc children attended a school run by the Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. They studied reading, writing, mathematics, and geography, and learned about the Bible and the importance of not drinking alcohol. Girls learned practical skills such as cooking, sewing, and caring for a house, and boys learned carpentry and farming. In modern times Modoc children attend public schools. Culture and language classes are now available so children can learn Modoc traditions.
Men or women who felt a calling to become shaman (pronounced SHAH-mun or SHAY-mun ), or healers, went on a quest for spiritual guidance and spent five days fasting alone in the woods. In time spirits would appear and teach them special healing songs and dances. They also learned how to influence the weather. Some learned ways to inflict disease or death on a victim.
A new shaman put up a pole laden with symbols outside his home. He painted the interior posts and put images of his guardian spirit on the roof and indoors. He sent out invitations and gathered enough food for five days, then danced for everyone at night and performed magic tricks such as producing fish or blood in a basket far from him.
Shaman usually cured by singing and sucking objects out of the body. They were also expected to find lost objects. For minor ailments, shaman administered herbs. Puffball fungus was used on sores and skin swellings, rabbitbrush leaves and stems were steamed to produce a cough medicine, and sagebrush leaves relieved headaches and rheumatism. Shaman were paid for their services and could become very wealthy. However, they could be killed if their patients did not recover.
Men hollowed out shovel-nosed canoes with fire and elkhorn picks and made bows of juniper or yew. They made arrows, spears, and digging sticks from mountain mahogany. Sometimes women made canoes, but most often they wove baskets of nettle fiber and Indian hemp. They worked designs into them with cattail (white), porcupine quills (yellow), and dyed tule (black). They created trays, bowls, and caps. Burden baskets, cradles, and seed beaters were made of willow. Both sexes tanned hides using animal brains, then women sewed them into clothing.
On the Klamath Reservation, the tribes host the annual Restoration Celebration in August to remember receiving federal recognition in 1986. They hold a powwow (Native singing and dancing), a rodeo, a parade, arts and crafts displays, and sporting events. Several other celebrations are held yearly: the New Year’s Eve Powwow, the Southern Oregon Memorial Day Rodeo and Powwow, and the Return of the C’waam Ceremony in March.
Courtship and marriage
Marriages were arranged by the families. A boy’s parents chose a mate for him, then visited her family together with relatives, bringing presents of food. The women from both families prepared the food and everyone feasted. If the girl’s parents favored the match, they soon returned the visit. The boy’s parents then assembled gifts such as baskets, beads, skins, furs, robes, weapons, and canoes. Relatives took the items to the girl’s family. If they liked the gifts, her family gave a favorable response. If they did not, the gifts were returned.
A wedding took place soon after the bride’s family agreed to the match. More gifts were exchanged, and the bride’s family escorted her to the groom’s house, marking the beginning of the marriage. For four days the bride sat facing a wall, eating very little and speaking in whispers. During that time the groom appeared only in the late evening.
After four days the bride began to take part in the activities of the household. Soon the couple moved in with the bride’s family where they would stay until the birth of their first child. They could then choose whether to live with the bride’s parents or the groom’s parents.
Birth and naming
Babies were born in wickiups with a midwife in attendance. The baby was washed after birth and received a steam bath the next day. An infant’s head and face were massaged to shape it. To recover from childbirth, mothers laid on sand that was spread over hot rocks for two days.
The father stayed home or went running in the mountains, seeking power. He gave away his first kill after the birth, just as he had done as a boy. When the mother returned, they both took a sweatbath, swam, and changed into fresh clothes. Fathers made a wooden cradleboard for the child to use the first year.
At age one the child received a name, usually an animal name or one based on a personal characteristic. Other nicknames might later be given.
War and hunting rituals
War chiefs, who were not the same as village chiefs, accompanied warriors into battle. Any man who could attract enough followers could become a war chief, but it was usually a man who had proven he was a successful raider. Raiding parties consisted of ten to twenty men. They raided for goods, such as weapons or skins, and to capture slaves. The usual targets of raids were the neighboring Pit River Indians (see entry), Paiute, or Shasta.
Warriors sought the help of shamans if they wanted to kill an enemy through magic or if they wished to influence the outcome of a battle.
A very popular pastime among the Modoc was gambling. Women enjoyed a game played with dice made of beaver teeth. Men played a complicated game in which they tried to guess how others had arranged their playing pieces. They had to study the faces and body language of their opponents for clues. Players bet large amounts of goods during the game, and a man might gamble away all of his possessions. Because of the risk of losing everything and starving, gambling did not take place in winter.
The Modoc believed that after death a person’s soul went to the “land of the dead” somewhere in the west. They also believed that the soul could leave the body during sleep. For that reason, they slept with their heads facing east so their soul would not mistakenly go to the land of the dead. They always cremated bodies with their heads facing west. After the flames consumed the corpse, the living tried to forget the person.
Current tribal issues
The Modoc are trying to establish a land base so they can work together to restore their culture. Meanwhile members live elsewhere, mainly in Oregon and California. At their Oklahoma headquarters some Modoc are involved in efforts to keep the language and oral histories alive. Elders are compiling family photographs and letters. Many Modoc travel to the Klamath Reservation to participate in ceremonies.
Concern about the decrease in salmon due to dam construction prompted the tribes on the Klamath Reservation to sue PacifiCorp. Owned by the British company ScottishPower, PacifiCorp has built hydroelectric plants on the Klamath River. These plants produce electricity through waterpower, but to do it the company built dams. These dams prevent salmon from reaching their spawning grounds, so they cannot reproduce. The dams also reduce the flow of water. The tribes want the company to create special passages so the salmon can get through. PacifiCorp claims it will cost $100 million to add ladders and screens to its four dams.
Michael Dorris (1945–1997) was a novelist and anthropologist who taught Native American Studies at Dartmouth College. He published many scholarly works, including some on Native Americans. In his later years Dorris gained fame as a novelist. He wrote Yellow Raft in Blue Water in 1989 and a best-selling novel entitled The Crown of Columbus (1992) with his wife Louise Erdrich, a well-known fiction writer. Together, Dorris and Erdrich also wrote a prizewinning non-fiction book The Broken Cord: A Family’s On-Going Struggle with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (1989). The book described their adopted son, who had been damaged by his birth mother’s alcohol consumption while pregnant. Michael Dorris committed suicide in April 1997.
Kintpuash (1837–1873), the son of a Modoc chief, was called Captain Jack because he liked to wear a U.S. military jacket with brass buttons. Kintpuash is best known for protesting conditions on the Klamath reservation in Oregon and leading the Modocs in the Modoc War. He was hanged in 1873 for the shooting of American General Edward Canby.
Other notable Modoc include: last chief of the Modoc, Bogus Charley; Kintpuash’s advisor Schonchin John; interpreter during the Modoc War, Winema Riddle; and shaman Curly-headed Doctor.
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Curtin, Jeremiah. Myths of the Modocs. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2006.
Owen, Roger C., James J. F. Deetz, and Anthony D. Fisher, eds. The North American Indians: A Sourcebook. New York: Macmillan, 1967.
Riddle, Jeff C. The Indian History of the Modoc War. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2004.
Williams, Jack S. The Modoc of California and Oregon. New York: PowerKids Press, 2004.
McLeod, Christopher. “Mount Shasta: A Thousand Years of Ceremony.” Earth Island Journal. 10 (January 1995).
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Gordon L. Pullar, Director, Department of Alaska Native and Rural Development College of Rural and Community Development, UAF, Anchorage, Alaska
Brian Wescott (Athabaskan/Yup’ik)
Amanda Beresford McCarthy