Modoc Tribe

Modoc Native Indian tribe

This article contains interesting facts, pictures and information about the life of the Modoc Native American Indian Tribe.

The Modoc Tribe
Summary and Definition: The semi-nomadic Modoc tribe were fishers, hunter-gatherers and traders of the Plateau cultural group. The Modoc lived around Lower Klamath Lake, south-western Oregon extending across the California border including the Lost River Country and the famous Lava-bed region. The Modoc fought against white encroachment of their lands which resulted in the Modoc War (1872 - 1873 led by Captain Jack (Kintpuash).

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Facts about the Modoc Native Indian Tribe
This article contains fast, fun facts and interesting information about the Modoc Native American Indian tribe. Find answers to questions like where did the Modoc tribe live, what clothes did they wear, what did they eat and who were the names of their most famous leaders? Discover what happened to the Modoc tribe with facts about their wars and history.

What language did the Modoc tribe speak?
The Modoc tribe spoke in the Plateau Penutian language and shared many cultural traits with their neighbors the Klamath tribe and also the California Native American Indians. The name Modoc meant "southerners” and were known as a war-like, fiercely independent people who were often in conflict with neighboring tribes, including the Klamath. Both the Klamath and the Modoc tribes were important in the trade networks linking California to the Pacific Northwest.

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Modoc tribe?
The Modoc tribe lived in autonomous villages, each with its own chiefs, leaders, shamans, and medicine men. They lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle and spent the cold, snowy winters in semi-subterranean pit houses and in the summer used temporary tule-mat shelters made from the reeds and bulrushes found along the rivers. The Modoc lifestyle was based on the seasons. In the summer they fished around Lost River and the Tule and Clear Lakes and collected berries, seeds and roots from these areas together with regions south of the lava beds. They used tule reeds (bulrushes) to make a vast range of objects including their shelters, sleeping mats and some of their clothes. Sagebrush bark was used to make clothes and footwear and to make baskets.


Where did the Modoc tribe live?
The Modoc are people of the Plateau Native American cultural group. The location of their tribal homelands are shown on the map. The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Modoc tribe.

  • The Modoc tribe lived in the sagebrush-covered lava plateaus and wooded mountains of northern California and in southern Oregon
  • Land: Marshes, lakes, rivers and streams
  • Climate: Warm summers and cold, snowy winters
  • Animals: The  animals included pronghorn antelope, deer, groundhog, coyote, raccoon, fox, bobcat, porcupine, weasel, hare and water fowl
  • Fish: Salmon, trout
  • Natural Resources: Berries, bulbs, roots, seeds, acorn nuts, water lily 'wocas' and bird eggs. Sagebrush bark

Map showing Plateau Indian Tribes

Map showing location of the
Plateau Native Indian Tribes


Picture of a Cayuse Tepee

Hide Covered Tepee

Picture of a Tule-mat lodge

Tule Mat lodge

What did the Modoc tribe live in?
The Modoc tribe were semi-nomadic and needed shelters that were easy to set up and take down. The Modoc lived in one of two types of shelters, depending on the season. The types of shelters were  a semi-subterranean pit house or a domed shaped tule-mat lodge, on a frame of willow poles was covered with several layers of tule mats

  • Pit houses were shelters were about 22 feet across and up to 15 feet deep and built with logs and sealed for insulation with dirt and grasses. Pit houses were built below ground with an entrance and ladder at the top and were generally used during the cold, snowy winter months.
  • The summer shelter, the domed tule-mat lodge, was above ground. The tule-mat lodge was covered with mats of strong, durable, tule reeds (bulrushes).

What food did the Modoc tribe eat?
The food that the Modoc tribe ate included fish, small game and waterfowl. Their diet was supplemented by berries, bulbs, roots, seeds and acorn nuts.  The seeds of the water lily, called 'wocas', provided a staple food. The seeds were ground into meal or flour in rock mortars. The Modoc utilized a distinctive two-horned milling stone to hull wocas seeds

What weapons did the Modoc use?
The weapons and hunting tools used by the ancient Modoc included bolas and Atlatls before the introduction of the bow and arrow. Other weapons included spears, clubs, knives and harpoons.

What transportation did the Modoc use? Dugout Canoes
The Modoc tribe built dugout canoes made from the hollowed-out logs of large trees. The Modoc hollowed logs using controlled fire that softened the timber so they could carve and shape their canoe to have a flat bottom with straight sides. The Modoc constructed two types of dugout canoe. A large canoe, they called a "vunsh" was suitable for open water navigation which was paddled and could hold four or five people. A smaller canoe, called a "vunshaga" held two people and was propelled by poling and primarily used to gather wocas seeds and duck eggs.

Dugout Canoe

What clothes did the Modoc people wear?

The clothes worn by the men of the Modoc tribe wore shirts, kilts and leggings made of buckskin. The wealthy Modoc wore robes made of deer, elk or bobcat, whilst the commoner's cloaks were made from rabbit or bird skins. Moccasins were made from either tule or buckskin. They wore few clothes during the summer, just a breechcloth or kilt. The men also wore undecorated basket or fur hats according to the season.

The women of the tribe wore a full length dress also made from twisted tule and buckskin, often decorated with beads and shells. In the summer they wore grass skirts. The women also wore highly distinctive woven basket skull caps.


The Modoc War and Captain Jack
Captain Jack was the name given by the whites to the Modoca leader Kintpuash. The opening of the Oregon Trail and the Applegate Trail resulted in wagon trains of white settlers reaching Modoc tribal territories. Gold was then discovered in the lands with the arrival of prospectors and miners who joined the gold rush. The encroachment of their lands and the inevitable culture clash led to various conflicts in the region including the Madoc War (1872-1873). The Madoc War erupted when the US government attempted to force a group of Modoc Indians to return to the Klamath Reservation in South Oregon. It was fought in Northern California and Southern Oregon and led by Modoc chief Captain Jack (Kintpuash). Captain Jack and his followers had fled from the reservation to the lava beds of Tule Lake, where they held out against soldiers for six months. In April 1872 President Grant organized an unarmed Peace Commission to meet the Modoc leaders but the meeting resulted in the killing of Major General Edward Canby and Reverend Thomas. The incident led to an increased US campaign against the tribe and the Modocs were forced to surrender. Captain Jack, and three other members of the Modoc tribe were hung on October 3, 1873 for killing General Canby. The surviving members of the Modoc tribe were sent to live in Indian Territory among the Quapaw Tribe.

Captain Jack of the Modoc Tribe

Modoc History Timeline: What happened to the Modoc tribe?
The following Modoc history timeline details facts, dates and famous landmarks and battles fought by the Modoc Nation. The Modoc history timeline explains what happened to the people of their tribe.

Modoc History Timeline

  • 1750's: The Modoc tribe acquire the horse and their lifestyle is changed

  • 1812: A trading post known as Spokane House was built near the confluence of Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers

  • 1825: The Hudson’s Bay Company established Fort Vancouver as a trading post

  • 1826: Peter Skeene Ogden, working for the Hudson's Bay Company makes contact with the Modoc Native Indians

  • 1843: The first major migration along the Oregon Trail took place in 1843 which led to violent conflicts with the white settlers who traveled along the Oregon trail in wagon trains who bring various diseases to the Native Indians who lived in the surrounding areas of the Oregon Trail. The Modoc tribe felt the impact of the newcomers in their lands

  • 1844: Mountain man Old Bill William and his fur trapping party are attacked by Modoc Indians

  • 1846: South Emigrant Road aka the Applegate Trail opens

  • 1848: Pierson Redding discovers gold in the present day Trinity County area near Douglas City, California

  • 1850: Gold discovered in the Lower Klamath Basin

  • 1852: Modoc Native Indians begin attacks on the wagon trains

  • 1852: Conflicts escalate and Ben Wright leads a volunteer company in reprisal for the wagon train ambush. Modoc Native Indians attend a council with Ben Wright under a flag of truce and 41 Native Indians were killed with poisoned food.

  • 1855: Rogue River Indian wars (1855-1856). Southern Oregon Native Indians begin fighting with white prospectors and settlers looking for gold. This starts the Rogue River Indian wars that were fought in the Rogue River Valley area

  • 1855: The Battle of Hungry Hill, the largest battle of the Rogue River Wars was fought on October 31, 1855

  • 1872: The Modoc War (1872-1873) led by Captain Jack was fought in Northern California and Southern Oregon.

  • 1872: Surviving members of the Modoc tribe were sent to live in Indian Territory among the Quapaw Tribe

  • 1875: Scarfaced Charlie was deposed as Chief of the Oklamoma band of Modoc Indians and Bogus Charley was appointed Chief

  • 1887: Dawes General Allotment Act passed by Congress leads to the break up of the large Indian Reservations and the sale of Indian lands to white settlers

  • 1909: Fifty-one Modoc Native Indians were allowed to return to Klamath Reservation

  • 1978: The Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma obtained federal recognition

  • 1991: The Modoc Constitution approved

Story of Captain Jack of the Modoc Tribe
For additional facts and information refer to the legend and the Story of Captain Jack.


  • Interesting Facts and information about the way the Modoc people lived
  • The clothes worn by men and women
  • Description of the homes and the type of food the Modoc would eat
  • Fast Facts and info about the Modoc
  • Names of famous chiefs and leaders
  • Interesting Homework resource for kids on the history of the Modoc Native American Indians

Pictures and Videos of Native American Indians and their Tribes
The Modoc Tribe was one of the most famous tribes of Native American Indians. Discover the vast selection of pictures on the subject of the tribes of Famous Native Americans such as the Modoc nation. The pictures show the clothing, war paint, weapons and decorations of various Native Indian tribes, such as the Modoc tribe, that can be used as a really useful educational resource for kids and children of all ages.. We hope you enjoy watching the video - just click and play - a great social studies homework resource for kids .


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