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November 21, 2020

Amazing Photos Capture Portraits of Modoc People During and After the Modoc War

The Modoc are a Native American people who originally lived in the area which is now northeastern California and central Southern Oregon. They are currently divided between Oregon and Oklahoma and are enrolled in either of two federally recognized tribes, the Klamath Tribes in Oregon and the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma, now known as the Modoc Nation.

Modoc people taken by Louis Herman Heller in 1873

In November 1872, the U.S. Army was sent to Lost River to attempt to force Kintpuash’s band back to the reservation. A battle broke out, and the Modoc escaped to what is called Captain Jack’s Stronghold in what is now Lava Beds National Monument, California. The band of fewer than 53 warriors was able to hold off the 3,000 U.S. Army troops for several months, defeating them in combat several times.

In April 1873, the Modoc left the Stronghold and began to splinter. Kintpuash and his group were the last to be captured, on June 4, 1873, when they voluntarily gave themselves up. U.S. government personnel had assured them that their people would be treated fairly and the warriors would be allowed to live on their own land.

The U.S. Army tried, convicted and executed Kintpuash and three of his warriors in October 1873 for the murder of Major General Edward Canby earlier that year at a parley. Canby had violated agreements made with the Modoc. The Army sent the rest of the band to Oklahoma as prisoners of war with Scarfaced Charley as their chief. The tribe's spiritual leader, Curley Headed Doctor, was also forced to remove to Indian Territory.

In the 1870s, Peter Cooper brought Indians to speak to Indian rights groups in eastern cities. One of the delegations was from the Modoc and Klamath tribes. In 1909, the group in Oklahoma was given permission to return to Oregon. Several people did, but most stayed at their new home.

Here below is a set of amazing portrait photos of Modoc people taken by German-American photographer Louis Herman Heller in 1873.

Donald McKay and Jack’s capturers

Black Jim

Bogus Charley

Boston Charley

Captain Jack

Curly-headed Doctor

Hooka Jim


Jack’s family—Lizzy (young wife), Mary (his sister), Old Wife & daughter

Scar-faced Charley

Schonchin and Jack


Shacknasty Jim, Hooka Jim, Steamboat Frank, Fairchild

Shacknasty Jim

Steamboat Frank

(Photo © Louis Herman Heller)


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