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As It Was: Joaquin Miller Proposes Indian Republic

The Poet of the Sierras, Joaquin Miller, once proposed creation of what he called “a sort of Indian Republic” with Mount Shasta at the center.

His idea was to unite the Shasta Indians to the south, the Pit River to the southeast and the Modocs to the northeast under a confederacy called the United Tribes. A treaty would secure all the lands around the mountain for creation of a reservation where no white man could enter without permission.

In a chapter of his book titled “Unwritten History: Life amongst the Modocs,” Miller wrote, “The Indians were to remain on the land of their fathers … (with) … no pay, no perquisites or assistance whatever from the Government. They were simply to be let alone … (with) … their possessions … their rites, customs, religion, and all, unmolested. They were to adopt civilization by degrees and as they saw fit, and such parts of it as they chose to adopt.”

Miller said he mailed his “honest, sincere and well meant” plans and maps to military and government officials, including the president of the United States.

Miller wrote that his letters “deserved something better than the contemptuous silence they received.”

Source: Miller, Joaquin. Unwritten History: Life amongst the Modocs. Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Co., 1894. 298-300. Print.

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.