Klamath Tribe

Klamath Native Native Indian

This article contains interesting facts, pictures and information about the life of the Klamath Native American Indian Tribe.

The Klamath Tribe
Summary and Definition: The semi-nomadic Klamath tribe were fishers, hunter-gatherers and traders of the Plateau cultural group in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

The Klamath tribe lived along the shores of the Klamath river and lakes, and are now on the Klamath reservation, southern Oregon.

Facts about the Klamath Native Indian Tribe
This article contains fast, fun facts and interesting information about the Klamath Native American Indian tribe. Find answers to questions like where did the Klamath tribe live, what clothes did they wear, what did they eat and who were the names of their most famous leaders? Discover what happened to the Klamath tribe with facts about their wars and history.

What language did the Klamath tribe speak?
The Klamath tribe spoke in the Plateau Penutian language and shared many cultural traits with their neighbors the Klamath tribe and also the California Native American Indians. Although they spoke virtually the same language as the Modoc tribe, and often intermarried with them, they also had a number of conflicts with them. The Klamath called themselves "Maklaks," meaning "people" or "community." The name Klamath meant 'swiftness'. Both the Klamath and the Modoc tribes were important in the trade networks linking California to the Pacific Northwest.

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Klamath tribe?
The Klamath tribe lived lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle and spent the cold, snowy winters in semi-subterranean pit houses and in the summer used temporary tule-mat shelters made from the reeds and bulrushes found along the rivers of their tribal lands. The Klamath lifestyle was based on the seasons. In the summer the Klamath fished around Klamath, Williamson, and Sprague rivers and collected seeds, berries and roots from these areas. The Klamath used tule reeds (bulrushes) to make a vast range of objects including their shelters, sleeping mats and some of their clothes. Sagebrush bark was used to make clothes and footwear and to make baskets.

Where did the Klamath tribe live?
The Klamath are people of the Plateau Native American cultural group. The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Klamath tribe.

  • The tribe lived in lived in the area around the Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath, Williamson, and Sprague rivers
  • Land: Marshes, lakes, rivers and streams
  • Climate: Warm summers and cold, snowy winters
  • Animals: The  animals included pronghorn antelope, deer, groundhog, coyote, raccoon, fox, bobcat, porcupine, weasel, hare and water fowl
  • Fish: Salmon, trout
  • Natural Resources: Berries, bulbs, roots, seeds, acorn nuts, water lily 'wocas' and bird eggs. Sagebrush bark

Map showing Plateau Indian Tribes

Map showing location of the
Plateau Native Indian Tribes

What did the Klamath tribe live in?
The Klamath tribe were semi-nomadic and needed temporary shelters that were easy to erect and take down. The Klamath lived in one of two types of shelters, depending on the season. The types of shelters were  a semi-subterranean pit house or a domed shaped tule-mat lodge.

  • Klamath Pit houses were shelters were about 22 feet across and 4 feet deep and built with logs and sealed for insulation with dirt and grasses. Pit houses were built below ground with an entrance and ladder at the top and were generally used during the cold, snowy winter months.
  • The Klamath summer shelter, the domed tule-mat lodge, was above ground. The tule-mat lodge was covered with mats of strong, durable, tule reeds (bulrushes).

Klamath Tule-Mat Lodge

What food did the Klamath tribe eat?
The food that the Klamath tribe ate included fish, small game and waterfowl. Their diet was supplemented by berries, bulbs, seeds, roots and acorn nuts.  The seeds of the water lily were called 'wocas' and provided a staple food for the tribe. The water lily seeds were ground into meal or flour in rock mortars. The Klamath utilized a distinctive two-horned milling stone to hull wocas seeds

What weapons did the Klamath use?
The weapons and hunting tools used by the ancient Klamath included bolas and Atlatls before the introduction of the bow and arrow. Other Klamath weapons included spears, clubs, knives and harpoons.

Rock Art - Klamath Petroforms
The Klamath are an ancient people who created rock art called Petroforms meaning rocks that have been moved into a new formation. A petroform consists of man-made patterns and shapes on the ground that are made by lining down, or piling up, stones, large rocks and boulders. The Klamath Tribe, in south-central Oregon, built many rock cairns or petroforms. 

What transportation did the Klamath use?
The Klamath tribe used canoes made of strong and water-resistant fir, pine or cedar bark that could be easily bent, cut and sewn. The birch bark canoes were essential for the Klamath way of life.  The boatmakers hollowed logs with fire and then bark was stretched over a strong, lightweight, wooden frame to make a canoe that could be easily manoeuvred. The Klamath constructed two types of canoe. A large canoe that was suitable for open water navigation which was paddled and could hold four or five people. A smaller canoe that held two people and was propelled by poling and primarily used to gather wocas seeds and duck eggs.

Picture of Birch Bark Canoe

What clothes did the Klamath people wear?
The clothes worn by the men of the Klamath tribe wore shirts, wrap-around kilts and leggings made of buckskin. Cloaks and robes were made of deer, elk, bobcat and rabbit skins. Moccasins were made from either tule or buckskin. The Klamath men wore few clothes during the summer, usually just a breechcloth. The men also wore undecorated basket or fur hats as protection from the rain or the cold. The women of the tribe wore a full length dress also made from twisted tule and buckskin, often decorated with beads and shells. In the summer they wore grass skirts. The ceremonial crown style headdress of the Klamath, as seen in the above picture, included a circular head roll that was made of bound tule and covered with fur. These were often ornamented with horizontal pegs made of quills,with beads and shells attached. Long feathers were attached to two small wooden rings to form an erect cylinder crown.

Klamath History Timeline: What happened to the Klamath tribe?
The following Klamath history timeline details facts, dates and famous landmarks and battles fought by the Klamath Nation. The history timeline explains what happened to the people of their tribe.

Klamath History Timeline

  • 1750's: The Klamath tribe acquired the horse and their lifestyle is changed

  • 1812: A trading post known as Spokane House was built near the confluence of Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers

  • 1825: The Hudsonís Bay Company established Fort Vancouver as a trading post

  • 1826: Peter Skeene Ogden, working for the Hudson's Bay Company, makes contact with the tribe and trading links are fully established by 1829

  • 1843: The first major migration along the Oregon Trail took place in 1843 which led to violent conflicts with the white settlers who traveled along the Oregon trail in wagon trains who bring various diseases to the Native Indians who lived in the surrounding areas of the Oregon Trail. The Klamath tribe felt the impact of the newcomers in their lands

  • 1846: South Emigrant Road aka the Applegate Trail opens

  • 1848: Pierson Redding discovers gold in the present day Trinity County area near Douglas City, California

  • 1850: Gold discovered in the Lower Klamath Basin

  • 1855: Rogue River Indian wars (1855-1856). Southern Oregon Native Indians begin fighting with white prospectors and settlers looking for gold. This starts the Rogue River Indian wars that were fought in the Rogue River Valley area

  • 1855: Klamath River massacres In retaliation for the murder of six white settlers and the theft of some cattle, when a "war of extermination against the Indians" began in Humboldt County, California.

  • 1855: The Klamath and Salmon River Indian War against the Yuroks and Karuks

  • 1864: A treaty was reached with the Klamaths, the Modocs, and the Yahooskin band of Snake tribes that ceded their Indian lands and created the Klamath Reservation. An estimated 2,000 Native American Indians were then escorted by the U.S. Army to the reservation.

  • 1872: The Madoc War (1872-1873) led by Captain Jack was fought in Northern California and Southern Oregon.

  • 1887: Dawes General Allotment Act passed by Congress leads to the break up of the large Indian Reservations and the sale of Indian lands to white settlers

  • 1954: U.S. Congress withdraws recognition of the Klamath tribe

  • 1986: The Klamath Tribe Regained federal recognition

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