January 20, 2022
I was forwarded an article this week about the Modoc Tribe. The ancestral home of the Modoc Nation consisted of over 5,000 square miles along what is now the California-Oregon border. The Modoc were a culturally detached and unique band who would occasionally form war parties to drive out unwelcome visitors or raid neighboring tribes. The arrival of white Americans in the early 19th century forever changed their lives. Eventually the traders and miners gave way to farmers and ranchers. The Modoc adapted and chose to live peacefully with their white newcomers, often working for them and trading for necessities. The Modoc took on many of the settler’s ways, and eventually began to wear clothing patterned after the non-Indians with whom they socialized. Even the names of the Modoc changed, and they became known to their own people by the names given to them by the white man.
This peaceful co-existence did not last, and a series of skirmishes erupted over the next decades, ending with the Valentine’s Day Treaty of 1864. The various tribes agreed to live in peace and friendship with one another and the settlers in the region and the Modoc were not restricted to a reservation and could live within their homelands. Unfortunately, the Valentine’s Day Treaty was not accepted by the US or even considered. After more years of abuse, Captain Jack led an 18-month uprising pitting 60 Modoc against over 1,000 soldiers supported by artillery. Captain Jack was hung for his participation in the uprising and became the only Native leader executed by Military Commission for participation in the US Indian wars. On October 12, 1873, 155 Modoc (42 men, 59 women, and 54 children) were loaded on 27 wagons and taken to Fort Klamath, Oregon, then placed under military guard in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on the way to their eventual unknown destination on the Quapaw Agency, Indian Territory (Oklahoma).
In 1879, the government constructed a building on the Modoc Reservation that served as both a school and church. The first marked grave in the Modoc Cemetery is inscribed as Rosie Jack (died April 1874). Rosie was the daughter of Captain Jack and his wife Lizzie. Many of the leading participants of the Modoc War are buried in the cemetery in unmarked graves. The Modoc and Klamath tribes were terminated from federal supervision in 1954. Years later the tribes in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma banded together to establish the Inter-Tribal Council, Inc. of Northeastern Oklahoma, and the Modoc formed a non-federally recognized tribal government. The Modoc Tribe in Oklahoma were granted federal recognition in May 1978, making the Modoc eligible for Federal assistance. An application was forwarded to the Department of Housing and Urban Development to purchase the Modoc Church and the four acres where it stands and to restore the church to its original structure. The grant was awarded, and the Modoc church was listed on the National Register of historic Places in 1980.
Thoughts: There are 496 enrolled members of the Modoc Tribe residing in 27 states, with around 200 living on a small reservation in Ottawa County, Oklahoma. This includes the 600-acres of the Modoc bison range. The range hosts about 200 bison purchased as wild from the National Park Service. The animals are grass fed and raised in a natural pasture similar to their wild environment. Bison is known for its nutrient-dense protein and can be purchased through the Modoc Administrative Office. The Modoc have again adapted, creating a thriving business selling bison they never hunted to those who originally drove them from their ancestral home. Do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.