"If I give up my men that killed the settlers, to let them be tried by your law, will you give up your men that killed our women to let them be tried by our law?"

Keintpuash, aka "Captain Jack", Chief of the Modoc Indian Tribe, 1873

Keintpuash Captain JackThe Modoc tribe occupied Northern California and Oregon when American settlers began pushing into their land, near Tule Lake. In 1864, the American government tried to contain the Indians to reservations but twice, Jack (pictured) led his people away.

Skirmishes broke out and soldier and Indians alike were killed.

Jack got the idea that if he killed the military leader of the white man, they would all leave.

So he tricked the US general, Edward Canby to attend a peace summit, at which time he mentioned the captioned words. But, then, on a signal from his men, the Modoc chief and his men drew pistols and knives, shot Canby and others dead, and in the confusion, managed to escape.

A survivor (Meacham) wrote:

"Gen. Canby assured the Inds. that he was here for the protection of both parties, and to see that the (Peace)Commission faithfully performed their promises. About this time two armed Indians suddenly appeared from the brush in our rear. An explanation was asked and Capt. Jack replyed by snapping a pistol at Gen. Canby, saying in Indian all ready after which Gen. Canby was dispatched ,by Cap. Jack with a pistol and knife."

The Americans responded with massive reinforcements. On June 1, 1873, Keintpuash, who the Americans called Captain Jack was taken, tried for murder, and hung.

The men that killed the Modoc women were never brought to Modoc justice.

But Captain Jack's Modoc tribe was exiled to faraway Oklahoma.


  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Honorable Murder
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Law & Justice Quotations
  • Langer, H., American Indian Quotations (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1996)
  • Thomson, E., Modoc Wars (Auburn: Argus Books, 1971).