Scarface Charley – Celebrated Modoc Warrior

Scarface Charley

Scarface Charley

Scarface Charley was a celebrated Modoc warrior and chief of the Modoc tribe, who is best known through his connection with Captain Jack, or Kintpuash, during the Modoc War of 1872-73.

By his people, he was known as Chǐkclǐkam-Lupalkuelátko, meaning “wagon scar-faced,” from having been run over by a mail stage when a child, hence the name by which he was known to the whites.

Captain Jack spoke of him as a relative, but it is also said that he was a Rogue River Indian of the Tipsoe Tyee (Bearded Chief’s) band and joined Captain Jack some years before the war of 1873 when 22 years of age. Scarface was among those who taunted Jack when he was disposed to enter into a peace treaty after the first attack and repulse of the white soldiers.

When the Modoc became angered during Judge Steele’s last visit to them in the lava beds, Scarface and Captain Jack saved the life of Steele by guarding him during the night. When Odeneal and Dyar visited the Modoc on January 27, 1873, on behalf of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Scarface would have killed them on the spot had he not been restrained by Captain Jack. He was also the first to fire on the troops when they attempted the arrest of Captain Jack’s band the next day in the Battle of the Lost River.

Surrender of the Modoc Indians, 1873, Frank Leslies Illustrated Newspaper

Surrender of the Modoc Indians, 1873, Frank Leslies Illustrated Newspaper

After the execution of Kintpuash and three of his warriors for the murder of Major General Edward Canby and Reverend Eleazer Thomas, Scarface Charley was appointed by Colonel Frank Wheaton as chief of the Modoc, who were to be sent to Oklahoma as prisoners of war. After a year in Oklahoma, Scarface Charley was replaced as chief by Bogus Charley, partly due to the latter’s better understanding of English. Afterward, he developed a line of traditionally influenced domestic furniture. He died on December 3, 1896.


©Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated March 2023.

Also See: 

Kintpuash, aka: Captain Jack – Modoc Warrior

The Modoc War

Native American Heroes and Leaders

Notable Native Americans on the Frontier