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As It Was: Oregon Legislators Regret Treatment of Modocs

A resolution making its way through the Oregon Legislature would commemorate the Modoc War of 1872-73 and express regret for the removal of the Modoc Tribe from ancestral lands.  Passed by the Senate, the resolution is in committee in the House of Representatives.

Before approval, the Senate removed language that would also have expressed regret over the Army’s hanging of Captain Jack and three other Modoc warriors.

Captain Jack, whose indigenous name was Kintpuash, was chief of a small band of Modocs who refused to remain on the Klamath Reservation in Southeastern Oregon.

The army chased them into the Lava Beds near Tule Lake, Calif., where they fought off up to a thousand soldiers before their capture.

A military trial void of defense counsel convicted and sentenced to death Captain Jack and three warriors for killing peace commissioner Eleazer Thomas and Gen. Edward Canby during white-flag truce talks on April 11, 1873.  Canby was the only general killed in all the wars against Native Americans.

Following the hanging, the army forcefully transferred surviving, non-reservation Modocs by wagon and train to the Indian Territory, present-day Oklahoma.

Source: Juillerat, Lee. "Modoc apology bill passes Senate, on to House." Mail Tribune, 3 Apr. 2019 [Medford, Ore.] , mailtribune.com/news/top-stories/modoc-apology-bill-passes-senate-on-to-house-southern-oregon-indian-war. Accessed 23 Apr. 2019.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.