American Indian Heritage Month: Commemoration vs. Exploitation
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Hooker Jim

In the 1850s, the Modocs traded in Yreka, California, and the traders and townspeople there gave the Indian leaders the colorful and sometimes unflattering names by which they became known. Hooker Jim (ca. 1825–1879) was a name given to a leader in the Modoc War of 1872–1873 who emerged as a rival to Kintpuash (Captain Jack). Although little is known of his early life, Hooker Jim's name became a household word throughout the United States when hostilities broke out between the Modocs and the U.S. Army. In 1864, the Modocs and Klamaths ceded most of their land and moved onto the Klamath reservation in southern Oregon. Deeply opposed to the relocation of his people, Hooker Jim persuaded his followers to return to their aboriginal homeland in northern California. These Modocs advocated the creation of their own reservation. In 1870, about 300 Modocs under Kintpuash reestablished a community in their former homeland on the Lost River.

In November 1872, the U.S. Army visited Kintpuash's encampment on the Lost River and ordered the Modocs to the Klamath Reservation. Kintpuash opposed the order, and increasing conflict with non-Natives led to the first battle of the Modoc War. Hooker Jim and his people were living on the opposite side of the river when some ranchers fired on them, killing a woman and a baby and wounding several men. Angered by these actions, Hooker Jim and Curly Headed Doctor raided a neighboring ranch and killed twelve whites. Hooker Jim and his people then fled southward to the Lava Beds, where Kintpuash and his followers were defending themselves.

Kintpuash still believed that a peaceful settlement might be negotiated. However, the Modocs balked at the demands of the Army to hand over the men who had killed the ranchers. At a peace conference set to discuss matters, Hooker Jim and others told Kintpuash that the only way he could prove that he was not a coward would be to kill General Edward R. S. Canby. On April 11, 1873, as the conference started, Kintpuash shot Canby, wounded Indian Superintendent Alfred B. Meachum, and killed a minister.

In the weeks after the abortive conference, Hooker Jim and Kintpuash argued about the appropriate course of action. Hooker Jim deserted the fight in the Lava Beds, surrendered, and subsequently showed the Army where Kintpuash was hiding. At Kintpuash's trial in July 1873, Hooker Jim provided testimony against Kintpuash to save himself. After the trial and the execution of four leaders, Hooker Jim and about 150 other Modocs were sent to Indian Territory. Hooker Jim later died at the Quapaw Agency in Indian Territory in 1879.

Bruce E. Johansen


Further Reading
Johansen, Bruce E., and Donald A. Grinde, Jr. 1997. Encyclopedia of Native American Biography. New York: Henry Holt.
 

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