Klamath - Orientation



Identification. The Klamath were an American Indian group who lived in southern Oregon and northern California. Although the Klamath no longer exist as a distinct cultural entity, descendants of the Klamath who are identified as Ethnically Klamath still live in their aboriginal territory. During the reservation period from 1864 to 1954 the Klamath were closely tied to the Modoc and the Yahuskin Paiute, with the latter two groups being largely assimilated into the Klamath during this period. The Klamath name for themselves is "Maklaks," meaning "people" or "community."


Location. As far can be determined, the Klamath had lived for some time before contact in what is today southern Oregon and northern California. The Modoc were situated mostly in northern California. Prior to the reservation period, the Klamath and Modoc claimed over 20 million acres of land in this region. The Klamath Reservation was located in Klamath County, Oregon, at about 121° to 122° W and 42° to 43° N. This region, with elevations over four thousand feet, is characterized by streams and marshes, and long, snowy winters. Fish, mussels, and water fowl were abundant. Culturally, this area is on the boundaries of the Great Basin, Plateau, and California regions. The Klamath displayed a number of cultural features typical of the aboriginal Plateau groups and, in later times, of the Northwest Coast region. The Modoc displayed some cultural features of northern California groups.

Demography. Estimates in the late 1700s placed the number of Klamath at from 400 to 1,000. In 1848 there were about 1,000. In 1930, 2,034 Klamath and Modocs were counted, and in 1958, shortly after the Klamath Reservation was terminated, the Klamath numbered 2,133. Since they were mixed with other Indian groups and Whites after being placed on the reservation, accurate population counts are not possible.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Klamath and the Modoc spoke dialects of the Lutuami language, which is classified in the Klamath-Sahaptin family of Penutian languages. There are probably no more than a few speakers of Klamath alive today.

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