Old Schonchin - Modoc
Chief and Warrior
aka: Old Schonchin, Skonches (1797-1892) - The recognized head
chief of the Modoc
at the time of the Modoc War of
1872-73, Schonchin was born at Tule Lake, California about 1797.
Through his efforts and abilities he was made a chief, but because he
was not a hereditary chief, his authority was sometimes disputed.
However in 1846, he commanded approximately 600 Modoc
Warriors. He took an active part in the early hostilities between the
and the white settlers, admitting that he did everything in his power
to exterminate his enemies.
Hostilities continued intermittently until
1864, when Old Schonchin (called such to distinguish him from his
brother,) and Schonchin John his younger brother, negotiated a treaty,
which placed the Modoc
on a reservation with the Klamath Indians.
Schonchin then led his people to the reservation and honored the terms
of the treaty. However, he could not control
known as Captain
Jack, when the Modoc War erupted in 1872.
His brother John,
Jack, withdrew from the
reservation and moved to his old home on the Lost River. The old chief
made every effort to induce
Captain Jack to return, but the
latter steadfastly refused, on the grounds that he could not live in
peace with the Klamath
Surrender of the Modocs, 1873,
In response, Schonchin worked to divide the reservation into distinct
districts, with a separate district being being set apart exclusively
for the Modoc.
Though several of
Captain Jack's followers returned to
the new district, others, including Schonchin John, refused and fled
to the lava beds.
From this stronghold,
the renegade Modoc
waged a destructive war. It is believed that Schonchin John, more than
any other member of the tribe, was influential in keeping up the
strife. He repeatedly advised continuing the fight when even
Captain Jack would have made peace,
and he was considered responsible for many of the inhuman acts
In 1873 a peace commission was appointed
to deal with the Modoc Indians
and a meeting with them was arranged for April 11th. To this meeting
agreed to send a number of unarmed men equal to that of the
commission. Though the commission was warned that their lives were in
danger, General Edward Canby and Reverend E. Thomas insisted that it
was plainly their duty to go. The four commissioners, accompanied by
interpreter, Frank Riddle and his Modoc
wife, Winema, proceeded to the meeting place when they were met by
eight fully armed Modoc Indians.
The council opened with brief speeches by Thomas and Canby offering
the terms of peace, only to be interrupted by Schonchin John, who
angrily commanded, "Take away your soldiers and give us Hot Creek for
a home!" Before the commissioners could reply, at a signal from Captain
Jack the Indians
fell upon the white men. Canby and Thomas were shot to death,
Commissioner Dyar fled and escaped, and Meacham was shot five times by
Schonchin John, but finally recovered.
As a result of this massacre,
military operations were resumed and after several bloody engagements
Captain Jack and his followers
surrendered on June 1, 1873. After a military trial, several of the
renegade leaders, including
Captain Jack and Schonchin
John were found guilty and hanged at Fort Klamath on October 3, 1873.
Old Schonchin attended the execution and told his brother he came "not
to bid you farewell, but to see if you die like a man. I see you lack
courage, I see tears in your eyes. You would not and did not listen
to me, so now I say I cast you to the four winds. Your are no brother
of mine…, so now die. I cast you away.” The old chief continued to
live on the reservation until his death at the age of 95 in 1892.
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