Modoc Indians


Last Updated: 7 years

The Modoc Indian territory extended into the northern part of California. With the Klamath, the Modoc constituted the Lutuamian division of the Shapwailutan linguistic stock of the Penutian language family.

Modoc Indians. From M6atokni, meaning “southerners.” Also called:

  • Afgspaluma, Nez Perce name for all Indians on Klamath Reservation and in the vicinity.
  • La-la-cas, said to be the original name.
  • Lutmdwi, by a part of the Pit River Indians.
  • Lutuami, Ilmawi name.
  • Pχánai, Yreka Shasta name.
  • Saidoka, Shoshoni name.

Modoc Location. On Little Klamath Lake, Modoc Lake, Tule Lake, Lost River Valley, and Clear Lake, extending at times as far east as Goose Lake.

Modoc Subdivisions. The most important bands of the Modoc are said to have been at Little Klamath Lake, Tule Lake, and in the valley of Lost River.

Modoc Villages:

  • Agawesh, on lower Klamath Lake, Calif., and on Hot Creek. Chakawech, near Yaneks, on Sprague River, Klamath Reservation.
  • Kalelk, on the north shore of Tule or Rhett Lake.
  • Kawa, at Yaneks on Sprague River.
  • Keshlakchuis, on the southeast side of Tule (Rhett) Lake, Calif.
  • Keuchishkeni, on Hot Creek near Little Klamath Lake, Calif.
  • Kumbatuash (with Klamath), southwest of Tule (Rhett) Lake, Calif., extending from the lake shore to the lava beds.
  • Leush, on the north side of Tule (Rhett) Lake, Oreg.
  • Nakoshkeni, at the junction of Lost River with Tule Lake.
  • Nushaltkagakni, at the headwaters of Lost River near Bonanna.
  • Pashka, on the northwest shore of Tule (Rhett) Lake.
  • Shapashkeni, on the southeast side of Little Klamath Lake, Calif.
  • Sputuishkeni, on Lower Klamath Lake, Calif.
  • Stuikishkeni, on the north side of Little Klamath Lake.
  • Waisha, on Lost River, 3 or 4 miles northwest of Tule Lake, and near the hills that culminate in Laki Peak.
  • Wachamshwash, on Lost River near Tule (Rhett) Lake, in Klamath County.
  • Welwashkeni, on the southeast side of Tule Lake, at Miller’s Farm, Calif.
  • Wukakeni, on the east side of Tule Lake, Calif.
  • Yaneks (with Klamath and Shoshoni), along middle Sprague River, Lake County.
  • Yulalona (with Klamath), at the site of the present Linkville.

Modoc History:

The Modoc came into contact with the Whites in comparatively late times, and acquired an unfortunate reputation from frequent conflicts with white immigrants in which atrocities were committed on both sides.

In 1864 the Modoc and the Klamath together ceded their territory to the United States and retired to Klamath Reservation, but they were never contented there and made persistent efforts to return to their old country.

Finally, in 1870, a chief named Kintpuash, better known to the Whites as Captain Jack, led the more turbulent element of the tribe back to the California border and refused to return.

The first attempt to bring the runaways back precipitated the Modoc War of 1872-73. The Modoc retreated to the lava beds of northern California and for several months resisted all attempts to dislodge them, but they were finally overcome and Kintpuash and five other leaders hanged in October of that year.

Part of the tribe was then sent to Indian Territory and placed on the Quapaw Reservation and the remainder on the Klamath Reservation.

Modoc Population. Mooney (1928) estimates that there were 400 Modoc in 1780, but Kroeber (1925), with whom Spier (1930) seems to concur, allows twice as many. In 1905 there were 56 on the Quapaw Reservation and 223 on the Klamath Reservation. The census of 1910 returned 282, of whom 212 were in Oregon, 33 in Oklahoma, 20 in California, and the remainder scattered among 5 other States. In 1930 31 were in Oklahoma. (See Klamath Indians) In 1937, 329 were reported.

Connections in which the Modoc Indians have become noted. The chief claim of the Modoc to remembrance is on account of the remarkable defensive war they maintained in the lava beds of California, as above stated. A California county is named for them and places called Modoc are to be found in Phillips County, Ark.; in Emanuel County, Ga.; in Louisiana; in Ohio; and in McCormick County, S. C.; Randolph County, Ill.; and Randolph County, Ind.; also in the name of Modoc Point, Oreg.; in Scott County, Kans.; and in the name of the Modoc Lava Beds, California.