Published on February 3, 2013 by Carol
Brutally harsh conduct characterized white-Indian struggles in the Northwest, such as the 1,000-mile saga of the 1877 Nez Percé War and the Modoc War.
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Harvesters of fish and waterfowl, game, seeds and bulbs, the Modoc were a tribe of the I,utuamian stock. They lived on lava plateaus dotted with sage and the forested mountains of northern California and southern Oregon. Their houses, which resembled beehives, lined the banks of Lost River and the shores of Tule Lake.
White settlers began to populate the attractive area in the 1860s. The Modoc resisted the encroachment at great cost and by 1864 the tribe had been reduced to about 250. Subsequently they surrendered their lands to the U.S. government and entered the former Klamath reservation in southern Oregon. They barely survived on the hardscrabble reservation.
In 1870 Chief Kintpuash, also known as Captain Jack, directed some of his band to California. When the group subsequently refused to return to the reservation, attempts were made to force the Modocs’ return, which precipitated the war of 1872-1873.
U.S. soldiers pursued the Indians to Tule Lake. There, lava beds and caves furnished nearly perfect fortifications for the quarry. The small band of about 150 poorly armed Indians held out for six months. Repeatedly repulsed, the soldiers enlarged their ranks to 1,000 by March 1873. In the course of peace talks, negotiators General E. R. S. Canby and Eleazer Thomas were killed. The soldiers grimly stepped up their struggle to overpower the Modoc.
In 1873 Captain Jack and his whittled-down band of approximately 30 surrendered; he and three others were hanged. A number of the rebellious group were returned to Klamath Reservation, and the rest were sent to Quapaw Reservation in Oklahoma. The Klamath Reservation was disbanded in 1963, and the Native Americans on the Quapaw Reservation merged with other tribes.