Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Klamath Tribes

The website of the Klamath Tribes, found at http://www.klamathtribes.org/ , includes details on three separate tribal groups (The Klamath, Modoc, and Yahooskin) which are united under one collective name, with common aims. The Klamath Tribes can be found in the Klamath Basin of Oregon (the second most north-westerly state in the U.S.)

They did, and still very much do, believe in striving to work hard, with success and survival their just rewards for hard work and high levels of productivity. '"Work hard so that people will respect you" was the counsel of (their) elders.' Historically, in the harsher winters, they survived due to their prudent reserves, harvested in more habitable climates. For years, three branches of tribal groups lived together, with everything that they needed to survive contained in the area that they inhabited. Things changed in the nineteenth century, however, when 'in 1826 Peter Skeen Ogden, a fur trapper from the Hudson's Bay Company, was the first white man to leave his footprints on (their) lands.' The website goes on to show a distinct level of dismay and anger when highlighting the effect of thousands of white settlers 'leaving their marks on the lands and the Klamath Tribes.' Decades of hostility seemingly occurred after 1826, resulting in the eventual loss of 23 million acres of Klamath Tribal land in 1864. They entered what is dubbed "The Reservation Era" but did still 'retain rights to hunt, fish and gather in safety on the lands reserved for (them) "in perpetuity."'

The picture painted about living on the reservation is actually surprisingly positive. It is shown that many members of the tribe took advantage of the new economic opportunities such as cattle ranching (which is still a key part of their activities today), with many people also taking up vocational training that was offered, and ending up with jobs at the Fort Klamath military post. In their words, 'The quest for economic self-sufficiency was pursued energetically and with determination by Tribal members' seemingly in any way that became available.

Times moved on and eventually, in 1954, the Klamath Tribes lost their federal recognition. The Klamath Termination Act was passed, and along with losing their federal recognition and all the associated supplemental human services, their 1.8 million acre reservation was also taken. However, just over thirty years later in 1986, they successfully regained federal recognition for their tribes. The land base was not returned to them and were encouraged instead to find ways to regain their 'economic self-sufficiency.'

Today, this strive for self-sufficiency has seemingly paid off. The tribe has approximately 3500 members and contributes 'about $25 million per annum to Klamath County's economy.'

"The mission of the Klamath Tribes is to protect, preserve, and enhance the spiritual, cultural, and physical values and resources of the Klamath, Modoc, and Yahooskin Peoples, by maintaining the customs and heritage of our ancestors. To establish a comprehensive unity by fostering the enhancement of spiritual and cultural values through a government whose function is to protect the human and cultural resources, treaty rights, and to provide for the development and delivery of social and economic opportunities for our People through effective leadership."
-Mission Statement
On the front page of the website, there is a link to the casino, run by the Klamath Tribes - the Kla-Mo-Ya Casino (http://www.klamoyacasino.com/), situated in Chiloquin, Oregon and opened in 1997- highlighting their modern day, economic success.
The 2000 Census revealed that only minimal members of the Klamath Tribes actually live on reservation land (The Klamath Tribes recently entered into an agreement to repurchase the 90,000-acre (360 km2) - of Mazama forest, courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klamath_Tribes); with only nine people residing on its territory, five of whom were white people. It seems clear, therefore, that anyone who wants to be, can be a member of the Klamath Tribes, with no (or little) importance placed on an individual's heritage or blood line.

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