The Modoc Indians’ Last Stand

Passing along a little known piece of history of Native American genocide, this one about the Modoc Indians’ Last Stand in northern California.

This story might be new to most, but the pattern is all too familiar: 1) Exposure to new diseases kills off many Modoc. 2) Settlers take Modoc lands. 3) Setters treat the Modoc as savages, killing them on various pretexts. 4) The inevitable U.S. government treaty forces them onto unfamiliar lands. 5) Desperate for their homeland, they try to return. 6) Their desire to be home triggers a war. 7) The Modoc suffer military defeat, further banishment, and loss of language and culture.

The California Sun wrote a very readable piece on this history. With the California Gold rush flooding the state with settlers and new diseases reducing the Modoc population by more than 80 percent, the Modoc signed a treaty forcing them to merge with the Klamath Nation in Oregon. The Modoc got homesick and tried to return to California, only to be met with military resistance. (The resulting fighting gets called the “Modoc War” as if the Modoc were the belligerents.)

While outnumbered, the Modoc’s knowledge of the local lava beds, they have enough of a military advantage to force treaty talks. President Grant sent Maj. Gen. Edward Canby to negotiate. When it became clear that the United States would not allow them to stay in California, Chief Kintpuash shot Canby dead during the peace talks.

More fighting follows, and Army reinforcements finally defeated the Modoc. Kintpuash was caught and hanged.

The rest of the Modoc were exiled to Oklahoma, where 200 descendants still live today. According to the story, “They reintroduced bison to the prairie and started a casino in the late 1990s. Their Modoc language and culture were largely forgotten.”

Click here for the story.

Here’s a link on the Modoc War