The Modoc occupied ancestral territory along what is now the southern Oregon and northern California border, in the vicinity of Modoc Lake, Little Klamath Lake, Clear Lake, Goose Lake, Tule Lake, and Lost River. Their homeland was just south of that of the KLAMATH, who spoke a similar dialect of the Penutian language, sometimes referred to as the Lutuamian language isolate. The Klamath called them Mo-adok for “southerners”; the modern pronunciation is MO-dock. Both the Modoc and Klamath are thought of as tribes of the Plateau Culture Area, like their more northern Penutian kin, with whom they often traded.
PLATEAU INDIANS were seminomadic hunter-gatherers. Their migrations revolved around the seasonal availability of food. Salmon runs were an important time of year. When these ocean ﬁsh swim upriver to lay their eggs, they make for an easy catch. Sothe houses of the migratorypeoples of the Columbia Plateau included not only permanent, semi-underground earth lodges, but also temporary mat-covered tents.
Although their way of life was similar to that of peoples to their north, the Modoc are often discussed historically with CALIFORNIA INDIANS living south of them because of the Modoc War, one of the few Indian wars to occur within the boundaries of the state of California. Because California Indians generally tolerated mistreatment by whites without resorting to large-scale violence, and because the federal government under the post–Civil War administration of President Ulysses Grant had a Peace Policy toward Native Americans at the time, the Modoc uprising of 1872 proved shocking to much of the nation.