Centuries of Genocide: Modoc Indians, Part V (Termination Era, 1954-1986)

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photo credit: Aaron Huey

Don’t worry if you missed previous installments. This diary will serve as a stand-alone and as part of the series.

In the 20th century, there were two separate, legal, Modoc entities: the Klamath Tribes of Oregon, which includes the Klamath, Modoc, and Yahuskin peoples (a band of Snake Indians), created by an 1864 Treaty, and the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma, who were created out of the US Army’s POWs from the Modoc War of 1872-1873.

Blogging is a self-reflexive and responsive activity. Several commentators have appeared, calling these diaries “whining” about the past. Not relevant to present concerns.  That is not true.  This is a generational series, and by starting off with contact, we’ve worked our way with a context to the 20th century. We’ve covered the eras of (Fur) Trade, the First Reservation System (they stay over there) the Second Reservation System, (they move to there) the Indian Wars in the West, (kill the people) forced removal (we send them there) the Assimilation Era (save the man, kill the Indian) and now we come to a forgotten time. It’s forgotten even though many of its survivors are still alive: The Termination Era. And many of you were alive then, too.

What is Termination? If I was to tell you that an Indian tribe legally existed and then it later didn’t, you might find that a little surprising. But that’s exactly what happened, multiple times, in modern American history.  So along came a proponent of assimilation.  He was a Western senator, a Mormon, moderately conservative, of the Republican Party. And he had a plan that would legally extinguish Modoc people in Oregon.

Geographic and Economic Context

In order to understand the termination of the Klamath Tribes, we need to talk about money, politics and God.  With the Fourth and Fifth Generations since contact nearly all dead, Modoc people in Oregon were fully transformed. Once a people of marshes (originally called “Lake Indians”) who would subsist on the woca lily, fish, waterfowl and their eggs, and big game, the Modoc people now lived far to the north, east of Crater Lake in the Ponderosa pine forests of the Klamath Reservation. The Sixth and Seventh Generations grew up speaking English and were Christians–Methodists mostly. Forced dependency on western foods–flour, sugar, salt–made for a semi-Western diet.

All together, the land that had been lost by the three tribes totaled 23 million acres. By comparison, in 1888, the Klamath reservation spanned 1,056,000 acres (that equals 4.5%).  The rights to fish, hunt and gather on the reservation were retained. However, the reservation was resource poorer land than the wetlands and the major rivers to the south.  Attempts to farm as instructed by missionaries had failed. But since all three tribes considered horses a form of wealth, cattle ranching easily translated into a major industry.  Back in the 1850s, cattle on Modoc land was a source of contention as settlers passed through, and Modocs treated the animals as game. But historically, the largest industry of all proved to be timber.  Shortly before the war had began in 1870, a sawmill was finally constructed, as promised in the 1864 treaty.

By the 1880s, Modoc people were transporting goods across Klamath County, down to the main settlement at Linkville, now Klamath Falls, which is on the eastern side of Klamath Lake.  In 1911, reservation timber sales soared with the advent of the railroad economy in the county.  

At the turn of the century, the US was reaching a peak of industrialization; port cities across the West Coast blossomed. That meant a lot of construction–wood construction.

Timber management made the Klamath Tribes one of the richest in the nation.  While pictures of early Portland show a tree-bereft landscape out to the horizon, the Klamath Tribes did not clear-cut.  They would select individual trees, from which sale proceeds would enter a tribal (communal) fund.  There always was (and still is) resentment towards Indians, especially Klamath Tribes people, as to Indian wealth management and resource rights.

Ideology

Indian policy at this time had taken a turn. Now considered mostly Westernized–educated at boarding schools, English speaking, hair cut, and Christian, not to mention off the valuable land and hidden away at former POW camps–officials saw Indians as mostly benign. In their eyes, assimilation had succeeded. Indians were granted the right to vote in the 20th century. To complete assimilation, Indians would have to be no longer legally separated from society.

The path to termination began in the 1940s, coinciding with the Cold War. The Cold War was at its “hottest” from 1948, when Stalin blockaded Berlin, to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Washington D.C. saw itself in a struggle to defend free markets and democracy both against collective ownership and authoritarian government.  With an American people firmly adhering to generations of rugged individualism philosophy, with warfare seen as positive again (it was despised in the 20th century until WWII) and a deep animosity towards collective ownership, it’s not hard to imagine the sentiments felt by both non-Indians in Klamath County and non-Indian lawmakers in Washington as to the Tribes.

From 1947 to 1959, Arthur V. Watkins served as US senator (sorry for the error) from Utah. He had been a rancher on 600 acres, a Columbia University-educated lawyer and a missionary for the Church of Latter-Day Saints. He remained highly active in the Church.

Watkins was not a rabid anticommunist, but he was fully anathema to Indian values and became the leading proponent of Termination. He saw termination as the completion of assimilation. The senator envisioned benefits from the erasure of differences between Indians and whites (who would eventually breed out the Indian). Actually, he went further, comparing termination to the emancipation of slaves during the Civil War, freeing them from wardship of the state.  Watkins chaired the Senate Interior Committee Subcommittee on Indian Affairs.

Termination Begins

In 1953, the US Congress officially began Termination Era legislation with House Concurrent Resolution 108:

Whereas it is the policy of Congress, as rapidly as possible, to make the Indians within the territorial limits of the United States subject to the same laws and entitled to the same privileges and responsibilities as are applicable to other citizens of the United States, to end their status as wards of the United States, and to grant them all of the rights and prerogatives pertaining to American citizenship.

Responsibilities here means federal and state taxes to which legally recognized Indian tribes were not subject. This use of wards arises from perception, dating to surveys in 1943, that found that American Indians were living in abject poverty across the nation. Officials believed they were doing the morally right thing and correcting government abuse by termination. Bureau of Indian Affairs compiled a list of the most economically prosperous tribes to start the termination process. The Klamath Tribes were the second richest. That year, Congress passed Public Law 280, which gave the states legal jurisdiction over all but a couple reservations in the US.

The next year, 1954, was the 90th anniversary of the creation of the Klamath Tribes. Through the heavy involvement of Watkins and like-minded legislators, the first American Indian tribe would be terminated by the Menominee Termination Act.  That August, Congress passed the Klamath Termination Act. Only four years prior, Jennie Clinton, the last Modoc War survivor died.  The Modoc people would legally no longer exist. It only took seven generations since contact.

1954-1986

Termination was not immediate. In fact, Klamath Tribes members could choose between remaining as tribal members or accepting a payment for an individual land parcel to be ceded, but only one choice had much incentive.  Federal recognition of the tribe ceased, and with that, the hunting and fishing rights. And with that abrogation, even more water rights had been lost across the generations. A total of 1660 people withdrew from the tribe. Those remaining became part of a management plan handled by a bank up north in Portland.

The Klamath Reservation lands entered the US Forest Service system, where the lands were badly managed. One portion of former reservation fell under US Fish and Wildlife management. The Tribes state that “the Deer population (while in State and Federal control) went from 60 per sq. mile in the 1950’s, to approximately 4 per sq. mile today, in the former reservation area.”

Modoc people along with the other tribes suffered increasing poverty. The small town of Chiloquin, at the former center of the Klamath Reservation, saw an influx of new whites and a rise in violence. A town of less than 1000 became known as one of the most dangerous places in Oregon: robberies, kidnappings, unsolved disappearances and shootings.

The Seventh and Eighth Generations knew Termination. Kossack deeproots bears witness in the comments:

I remember what happened with the Klamath/Modoc (2+ / 0-)

termination.  Although my family is not Native American, my father had lived and worked in Klamath County and had a number of Klamath friends.  He was in anguish as he saw what happened to so many members of the tribe.  Those who took the cash settlements were preyed upon by merchants in Klamath Falls who sold them stoves and refrigerators when some didn’t even have electricity in their homes, and they jacked up the prices of everything, especially automobiles, which many Klamaths wanted.  The money was soon gone for many former tribal members, who then had absolutely nothing.  Those who kept their land did somewhat better, although the loss of hunting and fishing rights was grievous.  My father said the U.S. government was trying to kill off the Indians and was doing a damn good job of it.  

Congressional termination of tribes ended in the 1960s. Other aspects of Indian policy proved more pernicious. Discreet sterilizations of American Indian women, without their consent or knowledge, date back to the early 20th century and continued until at least the late 1970s. These were especially common in Oregon, the last state to employ sterilization, where it may have continued into the early 1980s. The Indian Adoption Era officially lasted from Termination into the 1970s. With tribes no longer federally recognized, Indian individuals could be adopted by white families and the process of assimilation completed.  Even members of the Ninth Generation of Modoc people since contact, Millenials, have been adopted out to non-Indian families.

Centuries of Genocide: Modoc Indians

Part I (Contact, 1820-1852)

Part II (First Reservation Era, 1852-1872)

Part III (War and Second Reservation Era, 1872-1950)

Part IV (Removal Era, 1873-1909)

Tribal Restoration and Dick Cheney will feature in the next (and final?) part of this series.

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Centuries of Genocide: Modoc Indians, Part IV

In case you missed anything…

Part I describes the first generation of Modoc people to contact European-Americans, and the slow war in the Klamath Basin that destroyed the Second Generation. The Ben Wright Massacre is analyzed.

Part II encapsulates the Third Generation’s great crisis and the process leading to the Treaty of 1864, the significance of the Oregon reservation system, and Keintpoos’ years off the reservation before the US Army intervened, concluding with the escalation of tensions into full-blown war. We celebrate Thanksgiving at the end of November: at that time in 1872, Modoc people were fighting US Army from natural trenches in fiercely cold weather.

Part III covers the Modoc War of 1872-1873 as experienced by over 20 Modoc people, President Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, famous settler Lindsay Applegate, and others. It depicts the assassination of General Canby and the fall of the third generation since contact.

After the war’s conclusion, Keintpoos’ severed skull ended up in the Smithsonian. Brancho and Slolux spent life in prison at Alcatraz Island. Winema died in the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1920. And the Modoc people were halved, and one half was shipped to Oklahoma.

Oklahoma

The Modoc who went to Lava Beds were collectively judged as prisoners of war, whether they were involved in hostilities during the War or not. A people of lakes, the Cascade Mountains and the high desert, these Modoc were punished by being transferred to eastern Oklahoma.

Article 7 of a 1994 draft of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples uses the phrase “cultural genocide” but does not define what it means.[4] The complete article reads as follows:

Indigenous peoples have the collective and individual right not to be subjected to ethnocide and cultural genocide, including prevention of and redress for:

(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;

(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;

(c) Any form of population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;

(d) Any form of assimilation or integration by other cultures or ways of life imposed on them by legislative, administrative or other measures;

(e) Any form of propaganda directed against them.

The Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma explains how they ended up at Quapaw, and what happened to them there:

The terrible 2,000-mile winter ride in railroad cars intended for hauling cattle finally ended on November 16, 1873 when 153 Modoc men, women, and children arrived in Baxter Springs, Kansas cold and hungry.

In Baxter Springs, Captain Wilkinson conferred with Hiram W. Jones, Indian Agent at the Quapaw Agency as to where to place the Modoc. It was decided to locate them on Eastern Shawnee land where they would be under the direct supervision of Agent Jones. But Jones’ Quapaw Agency was little prepared to care for 153 persons with little but loose blankets on their backs. With Scarfaced Charley in command and only one day’s help from three non-Indians, the Modoc built their own temporary wood barracks two hundred yards from the agency headquarters. Some were housed in tents. These accommodations were to be their home until June of 1874 when 4,000 acres were purchased for them from the Eastern Shawnee

…Captain Wilkinson remained with his charges until the second week in December. When he left the agency, he reported to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, “on the cars, in the old hotel used for them at Baxter, I found them uniformly obedient, ready to work, cheerful in compliance with police regulations, and with each day providing over and over that they only required just treatment, executed with firmness and kindness to make them a singularly reliable people.”

Despite their industriousness, poverty and material loss would continue to plague the people:

Agent Jones also found he had no difficulty enforcing the strictest discipline, although one small area of friction had developed. This was the habit of some of the Modoc in gambling, resulting in some instances in losing what few possessions they had. When Scarfaced Charley, who had replaced Captain Jack [Keintpoos] as chief, refused to interfere, Jones appointed Bogus Charley as chief. He remained chief until 1880 when formal Modoc tribal government in Oklahoma came to an end for almost 100 years.

More on the dissolution of the legal tribe in a bit. For now, the hard times after arrival:

The first years following removal to Indian Territory were difficult ones for the Modoc. They suffered much sickness and many hardships due to the corrupt and cruel administration of Agent Jones. During the first winter at the Quapaw Agency, there were no government funds available for food, clothing, or medical supplies. It would be almost a year after removal that funds in the amount of $15,000 were received for their needs.

In Oklahoma, the POW population declined precipitously:

The death rate was especially high among the children and the aged. By 1879, after six years at the Quapaw Agency, 54 deaths had reduced the Modoc population to 99. By the time of the Modoc allotment in 1891, there were only 68 left to receive allotments, and many of them had been born after removal. Had it not been for the gifts of money and clothing from charitable organizations in the east, General William Tecumseh Sherman’s wish not to leave a Modoc man, woman, or child alive so the name Modoc would cease, would have become a reality.

If you do a search of ‘Oregon’ in this Quapaw Agency Census from 1900, you will find some of the surviving Modoc. Modoc people are the only tribe of which I’m aware that were ever shipped to Oklahoma from far west.  Their race is indicated as “In” for Indian. Jennie Clinton, or Stimitchuas, is one of the individuals listed. It is believed that she died at age 89 in 1950, but it’s possible she was born earlier than 1861. (She was of the fourth generation after contact, having some pre-reservation and war memories but ultimately spending her adulthood in the reservation system.)

It Was the Assimilation Era

With first Americans no longer free to roam the country, European-Americans thought that the plight of Indians would be alleviated, and with that alleviation, the Indian problem for European-Americans would be solved, by educating and acculturating Indians to Western life.  Quakers had already established a Quapaw boarding school in 1871, 2 years before Modoc arrival. The school was miles to the northwest of the agency.  Isolated from their families, children would forcibly have their hair cut by missionaries, wear European-American schoolchildren garb, and become literate and converted Christians by the missionaries forbidding their language, Klamath-Modoc.

Modoc people at both the Quapaw Agency, Oklahoma and Oregon reservations displayed a strong interest in education and literacy.  In 1879, Modoc people built a church and school on the Modoc Reservation at Quapaw. Later, Modoc children attended the Carlisle School, the notorious string of Indian boarding schools, in Kansas. The families that sent children there included the Hoods, Hoover, Balls and McCartys. Schonchin John’s stepson Adam McCarty died at Carlisle, and Modoc stopped sending their children to Carlisle.

After the war, the third generation since contact passed into elderhood–if they weren’t already butchered or executed. Modoc War leader Steamboat Frank became the first Indian to become an ordained Quaker.  He died in Portland, Maine in the 1890s. The Fourth Generation became the establishment.  The Fifth Generation grew up speaking English.

Dawes, Curtis and Statehood

In 1887, the Dawes Act changed American Indian life forever. Among the most significant changes, reservation land was broken up into patrilineal, owned parcels. This change furthered the loss of Indian land that began with the early treaties and reservations.  

The plains itself had been established as a vast reservation for tribes from the midwest, south and east. But once tapping aquifers like Oglalla and cattle ranching became feasible (Chicago boomed as an inland rail-port) Indians were further reduced to the Indian Territory–Oklahoma.  But now even Indian Territory was wanted, and especially its natural resources.  Statehood for Oklahoma would mean breaking the power of Indian tribes.

Dawes opened a can of worms that, for the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma, would spiral into a loss of sovereignty and environmental degradation.  An amendment to Dawes, the Curtis Act of 1898, ended the authority of tribal courts and the tribal governments themselves in Oklahoma. (Charles Curtis himself was a Republican congressman of Osage descent, who wanted education, assimilation and opportunity for Indians through his bill, which was later botched by various committees.)  Although Oklahoma’s natural resource history is most associated with its oil-boom perhaps, in the Quapaw area, rich deposits of zinc and lead allowed for a mining boom. Multiple Indian tribes leased out their land. Today, Quapaw area residents contend with a superfund site from those mines and the environmental costs that entails.

In 1909, the US government permitted Oklahoma Modoc to return to Oregon. Twenty-nine did so. Jennie Clinton was among them; she would then divorce and live until 1950 in a cabin on Oregon’s Williamson River.  The remaining forebears of the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma were (and still are) the smallest group of American Indian people in the region.

This is how the Third and Fourth Generations lived and died in Oklahoma.

Subsequent generations of Modoc history will be described in upcoming diaries.

Assimilation and Indian Names

During the last part of the nineteenth century the emphasis of the United States Indian policy was on assimilation. According to this philosophy, American Indians, just like other immigrants to the United States, should assimilate into “mainstream” America. One of the concerns at this time was the lack of surnames among Indians.  

American Indians have often noted that non-Indians have an obsession with private property. Government concerns with Indian surnames stems from this concern. The concern for private property goes beyond the individual accumulation of property and includes the ability to pass this property on to the property owner’s descendents, thus helping to create family fortunes.  Family lineages are an important part of private property.

In 1887, the Congress passed the General Allotment Act (Dawes Act) with the intent of assimilating Indians by making them land-owning farmers. The idea of the Dawes Act is to break up the reservations by giving each Indian family an allotment of land, similar to the homesteads given to non-Indian settlers.

In breaking the reservations up into individually owned allotments, the first step was to put together a tribal roll. Regarding Indian names on these tribal rolls, Sioux physician Charles Eastman wrote:

“Originally, the Indians had no family names, and confusion has been worse confounded by the admission to the official rolls of vulgar nicknames, incorrect translations, and English cognomens injudiciously bestowed upon children in the various schools.”

Government concern for Indian names, particularly surnames, was directly connected with allotments. The allotments came under territory and state inheritance laws. All of these laws were based on Euro-American family relationships and therefore the result was confusion if an allottee died intestate and local officials had to determine the heirs.

In 1890, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs ordered Indian names on the reservations to be changed so that each Indian would be given an English Christian name and retain the surname. Surnames were to be translated to English and shortened if they were too long. Care was to be taken to avoid translations of Indian names that might be offensive to non-Indians. The new names were to be explained to the Indians.

One of the ways of creating the new Indian surnames was to use the name of the father as the family name. This also meant that the Indian agents had to attempt to stop the traditional practice of assigning Indian names. This practice ignored the fact that many Indian nations were matrilineal, that is, a person belonged to the mother’s clan or family.

On some reservations, the Indian agent changed names such as Lone Bear to Lon Brown, Night Horse to Henry Lee Tyler, and Yellow Calf to George Caldwell. On some reservations, Indians were given names such as “Cornelius Vanderbilt” and “William Shakespeare.” Presidential names were also popular and so a number of Indians were named George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and others.

On the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, the Indian agent reported that:

“Now every family has a name. Every father, mother; every husband and wife and children bears the last names of these people; now property goes to his descendant.”

He also reported:

“During my administration I took a census of over two thousand names and had them all change, though it took over two years to accomplish the task.”

In noting that Indians often change names in response to events in their lives, Frank Terry, the Superintendent of the Crow Boarding School wrote in 1897:

“Hence it will be seen that the Indian names are nothing, a delusion, and a snare, and the practice of converting them into English appears eminently unwise.”

He also noted that the requirement to give Indians American-style names had not been uniformly carried out:

“While some have made earnest efforts to carry out the wishes of the Department in this particular, others have treated the matter as one of little or no concern. In many cases no attempt seems ever to have been made to systematize the names of the Indians, and in many others where such attempt was made the correct names for want of attention on the part of officers in charge, have been forgotten or permitted to fall into disuse.”

In addition to having the Indian agents give Indians more “civilized” names, the government also assigned new names to Indian students in both their boarding schools and in their day schools.

In 1890, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs published a detailed set of rules for Indian schools. Schools were to give Indian students surnames so that as they could become property owners it would be easier to fix lines of inheritance. Since most teachers could not pronounce or memorize names in native languages, and they did not understand these names when translated into English, it was not uncommon to give English surnames as well as English first names to the students.

In the school established for the Quileute on the Coast of Washington, the schoolmaster gave the students names from the Bible and from American history.

Many Indian families today have stories about how their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents got their surnames. While the government intent was to eradicate the traditional names and naming procedures, what has instead resulted in many cases is a naming duality: the formal names with surnames that the government requires, and traditional names still given in the traditional ways.