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As It Was: Indian Superintendent Recounts Near Scalping

In 1873, Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs Alfred Meacham was nearly killed and scalped during peace talks seeking to end the war with the Modoc Indians near Alturas, Calif.

Recovered from his wounds a year later, Meacham visited the Modocs who had been banished after the war to a reservation in Oklahoma.

On his arrival, Meacham was surprised to see the warriors, who had been such fierce fighters, playing croquet.  They scattered when they saw Meacham, but gathered around when he explained the purpose of his visit.

Despite his injuries, Meacham believed the Modoc War was a mistake and the tribe had suffered great injustices before and after the conflict.  He proposed that the Modocs join him on a lecture circuit to present the facts to the American people.  Several signed up for the tour. 

On the tour, Meacham began each talk by pointing to the scar on his forehead where Modoc warrior  Boston Charley had started scalping him during the peace negotiations, but warrior Hooker Jim had intervened, saying if he could get a scalp off that bald head, he could keep it.  Charley stopped cutting.

Source:  James, Cheewa. Modoc: The Tribe That Wouldn't Die. Happy Camp CA, Naturegraph Publishers, 2008, pp. 189-91.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.