Klamaths of the Northwest

They are the Maklaks. They are The People.

They have a stand. It is this: naanok ?ans naat sat’waYa. naat ciiwapk diceewa. ‘We help each other; we will live good.’ And good they accomplished…

The Klamath Tribes had the rare privilege to remain on the lands from time beyond memory for their people. It is know as Klamath Basin in the U.S. state of Oregon. The Tribes include three: Klamath-Modoc-Yahooskin. They spoke the Penutian Language.

They hold to the teaching that the world and animals were created when Creator ‘sat together and discussed the creation of man.’ (See Old Testament, Genesis 1 & 2.) They felt that success was rewarded (a proof of spiritual favor) for their virtuous striving. This the elders taught: help each other and we will live good. One of the ways this was shown was their dutifulness to preserve from the seasons’ abundances.

They were semi-nomadic and lived in pit houses during the long winters and the summers in wetus with bulrush covers. Their foods included pronghorn antelope, deer, ground hog, coyote, raccoon, fox, bobcat, porcupine, weasel, and water fowl. Fish was very important for in two weeks time, they fished enough salmon for a year’s supply. Trout was also eaten. Their diet included berries, bulbs, roots, seeds acorn nuts, water lily, and bird eggs. Their canoes were made of bark of either fir, pine or cedar.

This nation had no contact with Europeans until 1826. That first white man’s footprint was Peter Skeen Ogden, a trapper with the Hudson Bay Company. From the first explorers came the regular cycle of missionaries, settlers and then ranches. By 1864, 38 years later, two generations, the Klamaths lost 23 million acres of their territory to the conquering United States nation. In return, The People were ushered on to a reservation of 1000s of Ponderosa pine trees and provided a sawmill. They also were given the privilege to continue to hunt, fish and gather in reserves lands…forever. But by 1954, this privilege was revoked by the United States government for 20 years!

The tribe decided to take up the challenge of a changed life and moved into the ranching business of which they did very well at since they had already developed the usefulness of horses of which they had many and of which they considered their wealth. In addition to ranching they established a thriving lumber industry with a self-sustaining pattern of logging.

By 1950’s they were one of the wealthiest native nations on Turtle Island. But once again, their success brought consequences with the overriding government: their federal recognition was terminated with their reservation land taken, and hunting, fishing, and gathering rights suspended. Finally in 1974, the tribes were able to re-obtain their hunting, fishing and gathering rights to the reserves. It was in 1986, another 12 years, before they regained their tribal recognition in the United States government and received back a small portion of their previous lands.

Kintpuash, aka Captain Jack, is one of the most known Modoc/Klamath native. He was the Geronimo, the Chief Joseph, the King Philip of the the Klamath territory. His desire was to keep his people independent as the history past had been. The Modoc wars came to nought. (If you are interested in reading on the Modoc Wars with the United States government see: www.cheewa.com.)

The Klamath nation has an active language program and continues to strive to keep their people working together for the common good.

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