Cheewa James, Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma
Allen Nelson, Klamath Tribes, Oregon
A unique Resolution presented on March 27, 2019, by the Oregon Senate Committee on Veterans and Emergency Preparedness, reached out to a Native American tribe. However, there are numerous tribes involved, not one tribe. It was formally adopted by the Oregon Senate on April 2. Known as Senate Concurrent Resolution 12, the resolution commemorates the 1872-73 Modoc War, honoring those who lost their lives in war. The resolution expresses regret for the expulsion of the Modoc tribe from their ancestral lands in Oregon.
SCR 12 was sponsored by Senator Fred Girod after his viewing of “The Modoc War,” a documentary produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting based in Portland. The production dealt with the launching of one of the most expensive Native American wars in American history, considering there were only 50 to 60 Modoc warriors. By the end of the six-month war, these warriors faced a United States Army military force of over one thousand. Fought from a natural lava fortress known as Captain Jack’s Stronghold, the warriors had their women and children with them the entire length of the war. Captain Jack’s fortress can be toured today in the Lava Beds National Monument, California.
March 27, 2019 - Appearing to testify before the Senate Committee on Veterans and Emergency Preparedness were two descendants of Modoc leaders during the war — although they presented on their own behalf and not as spokespeople for their tribes. Cheewa James, enrolled with the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma, appeared in The Modoc War and was a consultant on the documentary. She is a former National Park Service ranger at the Lava Beds National Monument and has written two books on the Modoc War and people. Her great-grandparents, grandfather — an infant at the time — as well as many relatives, were all exiled to Oklahoma Indian Territory as Prisoners of War at the end of the war. She is one of the oldest members in her tribe.
James offered a thank you to Senator Girod and the Oregon Senate for the SCR saying that it “is a gracious act, one deserving to those who have lived in the shadow of the Modoc War these many years. We are all humans, and all involved in the war are in need of redemption for a terrible thing that happened a long time ago.”
Allen Nelson, enrolled with the Klamath Tribes based in Oregon, (or Klamath tribal member Allen Nelson) offered his testimony. Mr. Nelson stated this is a historic day for the Modoc tribe and the Klamath tribes. He thanked Senator Girod for his bold efforts in bringing to the forefront Native American history that is often hidden from the mainstream. The Modoc war was a tragic event we can all learn from. The Modoc tribe has suffered long enough, now is the time to understand the truth.
Mr. Nelson is a Klamath Indian on his father’s side and Modoc on his mother’s side. In his testimony, he tells the story of his great grandfather four generations back, Modoc leader Scarfaced Charley and his role in the war. Mr. Nelson stated,“ Scarfaced Charley was a fierce leader, “he fought along-side Keintpoos , leader of the Modoc tribe also known as Captain Jack during the war. Mr. Nelson goes on to say, “The Modoc people were fighting to protect their families and their homeland, just like anyone of us would have done under those circumstances.”
Mr. Nelson goes on to state, “SCR 12 is another step forward in the healing process for the spirit of our ancestors, the Modoc families, descendants and tribes in the region and to all the people involved in the war who have suffered and sacrificed their lives during that time.”
Mr. Nelson closed his testimony with a quote: “The spirit of our ancestors will live on and all that was done was not done in vain, but for the Modoc people to live on.”
Also testifying was Bill Raye, enrolled with the Klamath Tribes. A letter from Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry was read. “On behalf of the Klamath Tribes, I hereby express our overwhelming support of Senate Concurrent Resolution 12…Acknowledging the truth of wrongs done is a critical first step towards healing those affected.”
Full testimony can be found at the Oregon State Capitol website.