The Modoc War: A Homeland Lost
Klamath County Museum
[Cheewa:] Hi there. You should be sitting in your car in a parking area on the same side of the street area as the museum - a massive brick building with cream trim, with a giant Klamath County Museum sign over the main entrance. This is the main history museum in the area, and a great place to explore after our tour if you haven't already. Ideally you've also got a full tank of gas, as there's only one place along the sixty mile route we'll be taking where you can fill up. If you need to reposition your car so that you're directly in front of the Museum on the same side of the street, or you want to take this opportunity to fill up your tank, press pause now and then hit play when you’re back in front of the Museum and ready to begin.
Okay. Ready? Great. Now, before we begin driving, let me do a quick introduction. [Music In] My name is Cheewa James. I was a ranger interpreter for the Lava Beds National Monument in 1989 and 1990. And, I’m a Modoc. I'm the great-granddaughter of "Shkeitko," - better known by his English name "Shacknasty Jim." You're wondering where that name came from? Modocs were renamed by settlers and military because English speakers could not pronounce the Modoc language. They did not pick pleasant names, and so such names as Greasy Boots and Tee-Hee Jack emerged! Rumor was that Shacknasty's mother was a terrible housekeeper -- true? Who knows. But it was my great-grandfather, along with the legendary Captain Jack, Scarface Charley and another 55 or so Modoc warriors that held off as many as 1000 US Army soldiers in a six month-long conflict that came to be known as the Modoc War.
The Modoc War was the only major Indian War fought in California - and the only one in which an Army General was killed. And even though now it's generally overshadowed in the history books by the Battle for Little Big Horn that happened three years later, at the time, the Modoc War dominated national headlines for an entire year. It was one of the costliest wars in United States history in terms of lives lost and dollars spent per enemy combatant...and what happened between November 29th, 1872 and June 1, 1873 profoundly and irreparably affected the destiny of the Modoc People...and thus my own. But whether the Modoc War had to happen at all, and until what point it could have been stopped, is a question I have long asked myself – and one that I encourage you to ask as we journey together from Klamath Falls, Oregon to the Lava Beds National Monument in California - through the once-bloody heart of Modoc Territory.
Now, since "housekeeping" is in my blood, a few details. As you drive, this tour will use your location to trigger each part of the story automatically, so it's important that you follow my directions to stay on course. If you need to stop for any reason, just press pause, hitting play when you return to where you left off. Because people also drive at different paces, know that there may be some pauses between my talking, so not to worry. The tour will start up again when you reach the next trigger. The tour will also tell you if you've started to stray off-course. And, I promise I’ll give you directions every step of the way. If you do happen to get lost, just take a look at the map on your screen. This tour is designed to be taken driving the speed limit or slower so please respect the signs. Plus you’ll enjoy the drive a lot more if you s-l-o-w down! So let’s get started.
Still facing the museum, reverse out of the parking space when it’s clear. Keeping the museum on your right, drive with the flow of traffic. We're going to quickly loop around the museum block, so get ready for three quick right turns.