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Modoc Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Modoc tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Modoc website for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Modoc pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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    Modoc Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Modoc"? What does it mean?
Modoc is pronounced "moh-doc." That comes from the word for "southerners" in their own language.

Where do the Modocs live?
The Modocs are original people of northern California and southern Oregon. Some Modoc people still live there today, but others were forced to move to Oklahoma after a long fight with the Americans.

How is the Modoc Indian nation organized?
In the past, each Modoc village was governed by its own chief, usually a decorated warrior from an important family. There was no centralized Modoc government, just a loose coalition among villages. Today, most Modoc people live on a reservation in Oklahoma, where they are governed by an elected chief and tribal council. Indian reservations are lands that belong to a tribe and are under their control. Other Modoc people have been living together with their long-time allies the Klamaths in Oregon, but are now trying to break away from them and establish their own government like the one in Oklahoma.

What language do the Modocs speak?
The Modoc speak English today. In the past, they spoke their native Modoc language. Some Modoc elders still remember words from this language, and there are younger people who are interested in learning to speak their traditional language again. If you'd like to know some Modoc words, here is a Modoc picture glossary you can look at.

What was Modoc culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the Modoc Tribe's homepage. On their site you can find information about the Modoc people in the past and today.

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How do Modoc Indian children live? What games and toys do the Modocs have?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Modoc children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like colonial children. But they did have toys and games. One popular Modoc game was the hand game. Players held marked sticks behind their backs and gambled as they guessed the location of each stick. Another Modoc game was shinny, which is an athletic sport similar to lacrosse and rugby. Younger children played games trying to catch a ring on a pin or balance a ball on a stick. Modoc girls often played with dolls. Like many Native Americans, a Modoc mother traditionally carried her baby in a basket cradle like this one.

What were Modoc homes like in the past?
The Modocs lived in earth lodges. Usually these houses were made from a cone-shaped frame of wooden poles placed over a basement-like hole dug into the ground. Then the frame would be covered with brush and packed with a mound of earth over it to keep it well insulated. Because they were partially underground, Modoc houses appeared smaller than they really were. Here are some pictures of a Native American home like the ones Modoc people used. Today, most Modocs live in modern houses and apartments, just like you.

What was Modoc clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Modoc men wore short wraparound kilts made of deerskin. Modoc women wore longer skirts made of buckskin and plant fiber, decorated with beads. Shirts were not necessary in Modoc culture, but in cool or rainy weather, both genders wore deerskin ponchos and leggings made of woven tule. The Modocs wore sandals or moccasins on their feet. Here are some photos and links about American Indian apparel in general.

The Modocs didn't wear a headdress like the Sioux. Modoc women wore woven basket caps, and sometimes beaded necklaces. The Modocs painted their faces different colors for festivities, war, and everyday life. Some Modoc men also wore tribal arm tattoos.

Today, some Modoc people still wear moccasins or beaded jewelry, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of kilts.

What was Modoc transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes--the Modoc tribe made dugout canoes by hollowing out large logs from pine trees. They used these canoes to travel and fish on the rivers. Here is a website with pictures of fishing canoes. Canoeing is still popular among California Indians, though few people carve a dugout canoe by hand anymore. Today, of course, Modoc people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Modoc food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Modocs were fishing people. Modoc men used nets and fish traps to catch many different types of fish in the rivers and lakes. They also hunted deer and small game. Modoc women gathered berries, nuts, and other plants. Here is a website with more information about American Indian recipes.

What were Modoc weapons and tools like in the past?
Modoc hunters used bows and arrows. Modoc fishermen used nets, spears, and basket fish traps. Modoc warriors fired arrows at their opponents or fought with war clubs. They also wore armor and shields made of elk hide, and once horses were introduced, they became skilled at fighting from horseback and developed a reputation as feared raiders. Here is a website of pictures and information about Native American archery.

What are Modoc arts and crafts like?
Modoc artists are known for their traditional baskets. Here is a picture of a Modoc basket.

What other Native Americans did the Modoc tribe interact with?
The Klamath tribe has always been the closest ally of the Modocs. The Modocs were known as powerful warriors and often raided the villages of neighbors such as the Shasta and Pit River tribes. At other times, however, they traded peacefully with these tribes.

What kinds of stories do the Modocs tell?
There are lots of traditional Modoc legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Modoc Indian culture. Here is a story about a woman who married a bear. Here's a website where you can read more about Modoc myths.

What about Modoc religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Modoc life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Modoc people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about the traditional Modoc worldview, or this site about the Indian religion in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
If you want to know more about Modoc culture and history, one interesting source for kids is Modoc Native Americans. Older readers may enjoy The Morning The Sun Went Down, a more complicated book about the history of the Modoc War. Two good books for kids on California Indians in general are California Native Peoples and Native Ways; a more in-depth book for older readers is Tribes of California. You can also browse through our recommendations of books by American Indian authors. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Modoc Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Modoc Tribe

Modoc Indian Tribe
An overview of the Modoc tribe, their language and history.

Modoc Language Resources
Modoc Indian language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Modoc Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Modoc Native Americans past and present.

Modoc Words
Modoc Indian vocabulary lists.

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