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Elderly Klamath woman by Edward S.
Curtis, 1924
A Klamath man; a full image is available here

The Klamath are a Native American tribe of the Plateau culture area in Southern Oregonmarker.



Prior to the arrival of European explorers, the Klamath people lived in the area around the Upper Klamath Lakemarker and the Klamath, Williamson, and Sprague rivers. They subsisted primarily on fish and gathered roots and seeds.

The Klamath were known to raid neighboring tribes (such as the Achomawi on the Pit Rivermarker), and occasionally to take prisoners as slaves. Kit Carson admired the arrows of the Klamath, and it is reported that they could shoot those arrows through a horse. They traded with the Chinookan people at The Dallesmarker.


In 1826 Peter Skene Ogden, an explorer for the Hudson's Bay Company, first encountered the Klamath people, and he was trading with them by 1829.

Treaty with the United States

The United Statesmarker, the Klamaths, Modocs, and Yahooskin band of Snake tribes signed a treaty in 1864, establishing the Klamath Reservation, to the northeast of Upper Klamath Lake. The treaty had the tribes cede the land in the Klamath Basinmarker, bounded on the north by the 44th parallel, to the United States. In return, the United States was to make a lump sum payment of $35,000, and annual payments totalling $80,000 over 15 years, as well as providing infrastructure and staff for the reservation. The treaty provided that, if the Indians drank or stored intoxicating liquor on the reservation, the payments could be withheld and that the United States could locate additional tribes on the reservation in the future. The tribes requested Lindsay Applegate as the agent to represent the United States to them. The Indian agent estimated the total population of the three tribes at about 2,000 when the treaty was signed.

Post-treaty history

The Klamath, along with the Modoc and Yahooskin, form the Klamath Tribes confederation, with their tribal government based in Chiloquin, Oregonmarker.

Some Klamaths live on the Quartz Valley Indian Community in Siskiyou County, Californiamarker.



The Klamath spoke one dialect of the Klamath–Modoc language, the other being spoken by the Modoc people, who lived south of the Klamath. Once thought to be a language isolate, Klamath–Modoc is now considered a member of the Plateau Penutian language family.

Both the Klamath and the Modoc called themselves maqlaqs, meaning "people." When they wanted to distinguish between themselves, the Klamath were called ?ewksiknii, "people of the [Klamath] Lake," and the Modoc were called moowatdal'knii, "people of the south."


The Klamath people are grouped with the Plateau Indians—the peoples who originally lived on the Columbia River Plateaumarker. They were most closely linked with the Modoc people.

See also


  • Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior for the year 1865: Reports of Agents in Oregon Washington: United States Office of Indian Affairs, 1865.
  • Hale, Horation. "The Klamath Nation: the country and the people". Science. vol. 19, no. 465, 1892.
  • Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians north of Mexico. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1907.
  • Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
  • Waldman, Carl. Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. New York: Checkmark, 1999. ISBN 0-8160-3964-X

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