What is the Klamath Tribe?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2019
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The Klamath are a Native American tribe of Southern Oregon. They are part of the Plateau culture area, a group comprising many Native American tribes that originally lived in the Columbia Plateau covering parts of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. The Klamath tribe is most closely related to the Modoc tribe, who historically lived just south of the Klamath in parts of what is now Oregon and California. The Klamath and Modoc historically spoke two different dialects of a single language, Klamath-Modoc, now extinct.

The Klamath tribe, along with the Modoc and the Yahooskin band of the Snake Indians, signed a treaty with the United States in 1864 whereby they ceded their land in the Klamath Basin to the United States in return for a lump sum of $35,000, annual payments for 15 years, and the establishment and infrastructure of Klamath Reservation. The Klamath tribe was also granted the right to hunt, fish, and gather on the reservation in perpetuity.

The Klamath Tribes lost federal recognition in 1954. Twenty years later, the Federal Court ruled that the Klamath tribe retained its right to hunt, fish, and gather, and in 1986, the tribe regained federal recognition. However, much of their traditional land had already been sold. The Klamath Tribes have entered an agreement to repurchase a large portion of their traditional land.


The Klamath, Modoc, and Yahooskin still form a confederation centered on the Klamath Reservation, known as the Klamath Tribes. The group has 3,500 enrolled members and operates the Kla-Mo-Ya Casino in Chiloquin, Oregon. The casino's name consists of the first syllable of each tribe in the Klamath Tribes. There are also members of the Klamath tribe living in the Quartz Valley Indian Community in Sikiyou County, California, together with the Karuk and Shasta Indians.

The Klamath Tribes are dedicated to economic self-sufficiency and cultural preservation. The Klamath Tribes Language Project has designed a basic course in the language, which includes writing and pronunciation, and is available to the public through their website.

The Klamath tribe traditionally subsisted on hunting, fishing, and gathering. Along with other Plateau cultures, they are renowned for their basketry. Plateau Indians traditionally lived in longhouses made of tule mats, which housed several families.


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