Surveys – 07 The Klamath

The Klamath:

The historic Klamath had three major population centers: the east- side of Upper Klamath Lake, the Williamson and Sprague Rivers at the confluence of the Sprague with the Williamson, and the sourthern edge of Klamath Marsh. Band divisions followed the population divisions: “the winter locations are so fixed of habit as to give a measure of political separatism to the several localities” (Spier 1930:11). Political organization was weak, with non-hereditary political leaders. Chieftanship was acquired through personal ability and wealth. Social organization was weakly stratified. Social prominence was acquired through personal achievements. Slaves were captured, but were socially unimportant; they were held for sale to Columibia River tribes. Religion was based on individual power quests and shamanism. The dead were cremated. The Klamath were on peaceful terms with the Modoc to the south and maintained friendly trade relationships to the north. They warred with the Takelma, Shasta, and Paiute. Gatschet (1 890:=xxxvi) records that they “were filled with hatred” against the Molala, (Holele), but Spier notes they were on friendly terms,, meeting annually at the berrying grounds west of Crater lake (Spier 1930:9., 150).

Concerning Klamath economiic activities Spier (1930:10-11) writes,

Early spring finds them leaving for favorable fishing stations where there are successive fish runs. Through the summer they move to the prairies to gather edible roots and berries or to the mountain and desert to hunt. During most of this time families are widely scattered and the winter villages quite deserted, but with the ripening of pond lily seeds in the marshes during August and September they again congregate. The families return in the fall, rebuild the earth lodges from the remains of the previous year’s structure, and are all snugly housed by mid-December. The only permanent settlements are the winter villages. The summer residences are shifting, and while reoccupied from year to year, there is no feeling that particular camping localities belong to certain groups.

Hunting is perhaps the only activity which may have directly involved National Park land (see page 25). But Spier (19330:15 5) notes,

While game is varied and plentiful in the Klamath country, the Klamath are not much given to hunting. One informant phrased in, “We know very little about hunting deer.” Their attitude is betrayed by the exaggerated value put on elk hides, although elk were plentiful. And while fish can be taken by anyone, success in hunting is assured only to one who has spirit power. In a wold, the Klamath prefer the easier exploitation of stream, marsh, and prairie to invasion of the forest-clad mountains ‘which invite only the solitary seeker after powers.

Huckleberry picking on Huckleberry Mountain lying west of Crater Lake is responsible for ethnographic references to subsistence activities involving Crater Lake, and here the references to travel through the area in order to reach the berrying grounds from Klamath Marsh (Spier 1930:160). The Kamath place names, Maklaks Crater, Maklaks Spring, Maklaks Pass, and Tututni Pass, especially the latter two,, undoubtedly refer to landmarks along former Indian trails which converge on Annie Spring and from there cross the divide to the Rogue drainage. The trails are still traceable; they were formerly maintained, judging by old indications of trail clearing, but are now overgrown and abandoned.

Crater Lake was claimed as part of the Klamath territory. It was rarely visited, and was held in religious awe as a locality of great supernatural power. Informants told the writer in 1952 that Crater Lake was formerly considered a very dangerous place best to be avoided, and that in the ‘”old days” only a “very strong man” would dare approach it. A legend which refers to its discovery by a Klamath man relates that the peopie were afraid and camped away from the lake below the rim. The discoverer continued to visit the lake until the spirits finally killed him. Several origin myths of the Klammath deal with features of the lake. One particularly interesting myth discussed by Ella Clark (1963) attributes the destruction of Mt. Mazama to a battle between supernatural beings of the earth and sky. The underground spirits were defeated, driven back underground, and the top of the mountain collapsed upon them. The battle was followed by a period of severe storms which deluged the area and filled the caldera with water, This myth has several interesting details that parallel the geologic events of the caldera formation and filling reconstructed by Williams (1942).

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