The ancestral home of the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma consisted of some 5,000 square miles of along what is now the California-Oregon border. While their tribal territory encompassed only a small area, it was one of panoramic eco-diversity with the perennially snow-capped peaks of the majestic Cascade Mountains in the distance. The arrival of fur traders, prospectors and finally farmers and settlers created enormous pressure on the tribe and they signed a reservation treaty in 1864.
Life on the reservation was less than ideal and in 1865, Captain Jack (Kientpoos or Kintpuash) led his band of Modoc off the reservation and returned to the Lost River area of Northern California, refusing to return to the reservation, and requesting a separate Modoc reservation on Lost River. Angered by Captain Jack's refusal, the U.S. Army was determined to capture Jack and his followers and return them to the Klamath reservation in Oregon. The clash between the two fueled the explosive Modoc War.
The Modoc retreated to the nearby Lava Beds and with no more than 57 braves for almost six months, Captain Jack and five of his warriors became the only Indians in American history to be tried by a military commission for war crimes and Captain Jack was executed. In October 1873, 155 Modoc - 42 men, 59 women, and 54 children - were loaded into four boxcars that were designed to transport cattle. These boxcars were coupled between two railroad cars filled with soldiers. Men and boys who were capable of bearing arms were shackled.
After a 2,000 mile-winter trip, they arrived at the Quapaw Agency in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma. The first years following removal to Indian Territory were difficult ones for the Modoc, with a great deal of sickness, death and many hardships due to the corruption of the Indian agent assigned to the tribe. By the time allotment arrived in 1891, there were only 68 Modoc left to receive allotments, with many of those born after removal. In spite of the odds, the Modoc persevered, survived and were granted federal recognition in 1978. Today the tribe is preserving and restoring its heritage and culture in tribal archives and a library.