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About Modoc National Forest
Campgrounds in Modoc
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History of Modoc National Forest
The Modoc National Forest has a very short history (just a little over 100 years) in comparison to the Native people who have lived here and loved this land for thousands of years. These early prehistoric people are the ancestors of America. Their story is everyone's story. A story that deserves to be told and embraced by all Americans. A Nation without a past is like a person without a memory.
No one today knows what the first people to settle in this area called themselves. Over time these early folks became the Native American tribes that still occupy the area today: the Modoc, the Pit River or Achomawi, and the Northern Paiute.
All three of these groups led a “hunter & gatherer” lifestyle. They subsisted off of the natural foods available to them – wild game, fish and fowl, and edible plants. All of these food resources they hunted and gathered on an annual cycle from the lakes, rivers, wetlands, mountains, plateaus, and valleys of the area. Winters were spent in main village locations where collected food was stockpiled. During most of the spring, summer, and fall, these people roamed across their territories harvesting wild plant and animal resources as they became available.
They used natural “tool stone” such as obsidian to make knives, spear points and arrow points, and basalt to make plant grinding/processing tools such as metates and manos and mortars and pestles. Their winter villages usually had substantial semi-subterranean houses to keep them warm, and used temporary shelters, some with “rock rings” for foundations, for their seasonal rounds collecting food stuffs. In some places these folks made “rock art” – petroglyphs (rock carvings) or pictographs (rock paintings), and rock stacks or cairns. Some of these locations were special places where they might wish for luck or pray.
Starting in 1826 Euro-Americans entered the Modoc County area. The first were fur trappers and explorers for the Hudson’s Bay Company and the young United States. These were followed by emigrant settlers heading to Oregon along the Applegate Trail in 1846, and settlers and gold miners heading to California along the Lassen Trail in 1848-1849. Vestiges of these early emigrant trails are still visible across the area, part of the Emigrant Trails Scenic Byway and marked by the Oregon-California Trails Association.
In 1872-1873 the Modoc War took place in the vicinity of Tule Lake and the current Lava Beds National Monument. Here the Modoc leader, Captain Jack, and about 57 warriors, kept the US military at bay for several months in the rough lava country. General E.R.S. Canby was killed during the conflict – the only regular Army general ever killed during the 19th century period of Indian Wars.
Today there are remnants not only of emigrant trails and battlefields, but of early settlements and prehistoric sites as well. These sites are all protected by federal law.
The Federal Antiquities Act of 1906 and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 protect artifacts and sites on public lands. They belong to all the citizens and are not to be removed for personal souvenirs. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (as amended) that states, in part, “…that the historic and cultural foundations of the Nation should be preserved as a living part of our community life and development in order to give a sense of orientation to the American people”.