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Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma buys 800 acres near Lava Beds

The Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma, which includes descendants of Modoc Indians removed from their ancestral lands following the end of the 1872-73 Modoc War, has purchased 800 acres of land near Lava Beds National Monument.

Blake Follis, attorney for the Modoc Tribe and a member of the tribal council, confirmed the purchase of the land was done earlier this year.

“I’m not at liberty to say what the tribe wants to do with it,” Hollis said. “When we’re ready we’ll make a decision known.” The tribe is based in Miami, Oklahoma.

The purchase price for the acreage, located north and west of the park, was $250,000. The land purchased by the tribe was known historically as the Fleener Homestead and was owned by Sam Fleener, who served as a teamster during the Modoc War. Fleener’s Chimney, a group of volcanic vents and spatter cones within the Lava Beds, is named for him.

Maurice O’Keeffe, whose family had owned most of the area since 1929, said it has limited access. A well provides water for about 160 acres, while the rest of the land is sagebrush, juniper and lava rock. He said the property, which was last used for cattle grazing about 35 years ago, had been for sale for four or five years. Most of the land is surrounded by national forest.

Follis visited the region earlier this year, during a tour of Lava Beds when discussions were being held about upgrading the national monument to a national park. He said Petroglyph Point, an area that features more than 5,000 carved petroglyphs made 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, is an area of pride and concern.

“This is part of our history, our creation,” Follis said.

During the tour, Follis said he had made several previous visits to Petroglyph Point and other areas in the park, including significant sites from the Modoc War. He is the great-great-great-grandson of Long Jim, the youngest Modoc warrior during the war. He’s also the grandson of Chief Bill Follis, the tribal leader for the past 45 years.

Following the war, four tribal leaders, including Captain Jack, Schonchin John, Black Jim and Boston Charlie, were hanged at Fort Klamath. On Oct. 12, 1873, 155 Modoc prisoners of war — 42 men, 59 women and 54 children — left Fort Klamath and were taken by train to the Quapaw Indian Reservation in Oklahoma. After six years, their population shrank to 99, and by 1891 to 68. In recent years — the Modoc Tribe in Oklahoma was granted federal recognition in 1978 — the number of enrollees has risen to nearly 300, Follis said.

Although he lives in Miami, in northeastern Oklahoma, Follis said in an interview earlier this year that the Lava Beds region is also “home.”

“We’re talking about a location my family fought and died for. The significance for me is to bring back my son and show him what and where we came from,” he said.

Since gaining tribal status, he said, the Modoc Tribe is “looking for opportunities to invest in the region,” culturally and historically, with a goal of returning to Lava Beds and the Tulelake Basin.

“In recent years we’ve been establishing a solid foundation to make this journey back. We don’t want to convey an impression we’re here to take over. We want to be a partner. ... We don’t want to displace anybody like they displaced us.”

— Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.




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              Page Updated: Friday November 03, 2017 01:42 AM  Pacific

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