Modocs, a tribe of American Indians, originally part of the Klamath nation, but in recent times hostile to them. The name Modoc was given to them by the Shasteecas, and means enemies. Their original territory was a district about 100 by 40 m. on the S. shore of Klamath lake, California. They were dark-colored, with a heavy drowsy face and dull yellowish eye. Their houses were pits roofed with a conical structure of wooden slabs, covered with earth. Both sexes were decently clothed in skins. They contended with the Shasteecas and the Klamaths, and traded in the slaves they captured in war. They recognized a deity called Komoose. As early as 1847 and 1849 they are charged with having cut off more than 50 whites. The Indians on Clear lake chastised by Capt. Nathaniel Lyon in 1850 were apparently of this tribe. After another massacre of whites in 1852 Ben Wright invited the Modocs to a peaceful feast in 1855, and killed 41 out of 46 who came. This act the Modocs never forgave. A campaign against them in 1856 under Gen. Crosby cut off many, but the war was kept up till 1864, when a treaty was made, by which they ceded their lands and agreed to go on a reservation.
This treaty was not ratified by the President's proclamation till Feb. 17, 1870, or the reservation officially set apart till March 14, 1871. Meanwhile the Modocs had been induced to go upon the Klamath reservation, but it was a part of the country where they could not live; their own provisions were destroyed, they were cheated out of government allowances, and the Klamaths harassed them. Some were then moved to Yainax reservation, but Klamaths were put with them, and the trouble continued. Two Modoc bands left the reservation. The turbulent band of Captain Jack (Krentpoos), who had set himself up against Schonchin, the hereditary chief, after suffering greatly in the winter, returned in February, 1868, to their old home on Lost river, while the quiet and inoffensive band settled on Hot creek near the whites. Loud complaints were made against Captain Jack's band, and the commissioner of Indian affairs, on April 11,1872, ordered Superintendent Odeneal to remove them from Lost river to the reservation. On their refusal to go, troops from Fort Klamath moved on Captain Jack's camp, Nov. 29, 1872, and some Oregon citizens on another camp on the opposite side of the river. Fighting ensued at both camps.
The whites withdrew with loss, and the Modocs, retreating united, massacred some peaceful settlers on the way, and reached the Lava Beds, a volcanic region which served as a natural fortification. Maj. Gen. Wheaton entered this tract, Jan. 17, 1873, but could not penetrate within three miles of the Modoc stronghold, and after losing. 11 killed and 21 wounded drew off. Gen. Gillem then took command, but with no greater success. Meanwhile the government appointed commissioners to inquire into the causes of discontent. A conference, April 11, 1873, was broken up by the Modocs attacking the commissioners, killing Gen. Canby and Dr. Thomas, and wounding Mr. Meacham, another of the commissioners. Active operations were resumed, and the Modocs, after a long and stubborn resistance, finally surrendered to Gen. J. C. Davis, about June 1. Captain Jack, Schonchin, jr., and two other Modocs were tried by a military commission and executed at Fort Klamath, Oct. 3. The rest of those captured were, by order of the secretary of war and the Indian commissioner (Nov. 4), placed on the Quapaw reservation, in the Indian territory.
This band numbered 148; the number of those left at the Klamath agency who took no part in the war was about 100.