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As It Was: Edison Chiloquin Becomes “The Conscience of the Klamath”

In 1985, a member of the Klamath Indian tribe, Edison Chiloquin, achieved his dream of gaining title to his ancestral home in Southern Oregon.

The U.S. Congress had converted most of the Klamath Reservation to National Forest land in 1954, including property inhabited by Chiloquin’s grandfather. The legislation also terminated the Klamath Tribes as a nation.  

Chiloquin earned a Silver Star for valor in The Philippines during World War II.  After the war, he settled in his family village, Pla’ikni, near the town of Chiloquin, Ore., named after his grandfather.  He turned down government compensation as payment for Klamath tribal lands, which grew over time to more than $250,000.  Instead, he lit a “sacred fire” at Pla’ikni and kept it burning continuously while negotiating for return of the land. 

In 1980, Congress passed legislation giving Chiloquin and his descendants title to 580 acres that included his ancestral village.  The land has been used for Klamath tribal ceremonies and visited by people from around the world.  Chiloquin died in 2003 at his family home.  He was 79.

Edison Chiloquin became known as “the conscience of the Klamath.”  

Sources: "Edison Chiloquin Given Farewell." Heraldandnews.com, Herald and News, 27 May 2003. Path: Heraldandnews.com; Edison Chiloquin Given Farewell.              

Foster, Doug. ""Send Chiloquin Up." Klamath Indians and the War Effort." Southern Oregon Heritage, 1995, pp. 22-25.     

Juillerat, Lee. "Edison Chiloquin (1923-2003)." Oregon Encyclopedia, Portland State University and the Oregon Historical Society. Path: www.oregonenclyclopedia.org; Edison Chiloquin.

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.