What's New & Upcoming

This is the time when writers of all genders feel like mothers-to-be. After years of work and anticipation, birth awaits — in this case, from the printing presses of Bison Books, the trade imprint of the University of Nebraska Press.

The Modoc War will appear in brick-and-mortar and online bookstores in about 10 weeks. You can pre-order at UNP.

A Byword on the Modoc War

Often, when I was researching and writing the book, folks would ask what I was working on. And when I told them, they’d say, “Oh, really,” under a quizzical expression. “And what was that, exactly?”

By way of answer:

• The Modoc War of 1872–73 was the only set-piece Indian war fought in California. The state saw more than its fair share of massacres, death squads, vigilante attacks, and murderous equivalents, but the Modoc War was the only national-level military campaign against a Native nation inside California.

• Until George Armstrong Custer led much of the 7th Cavalry to destruction at the Little Bighorn in 1876, the Modoc War received the most media and popular attention of any western Indian conflict to date. It served as the bellwether fight against Native peoples in the American West.

• One reason: the only general officer to die by hostile action against Indians — Brigadier General E. R. S. Canby — met his end in the Modoc War. (Custer was but a lieutenant colonel in the Regular Army.) Canby’s killing was attributed to Indian treachery, an explanation that supported the prevailing myth of American innocence.

• After the war ended, several Modoc leaders were tried by a military commission (yes, shades of Guantánamo) and hanged, the one and only time Native fighters were charged with war crimes.

• In truth, the war began long before the first shot was fired, and ended decades after the last. The Modoc War tells the whole story, from beginning to end and from both sides. It’s both wrenching and necessary.

Upcoming Events

Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, 7 p.m. Reading and signing, The Modoc War: A Story of Genocide at the Dawn of America's Gilded Age. Klamath County Museum, 1451 Main Street, Klamath Falls, OR 97626.

Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, 1–3 p.m. “Thanksgiving Nightmare: America’s Native Genocide.” Presentation on how European settlers disposed of the Indigenous peoples of this continent, using the Modoc War as a brutal case in point. Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, 55 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek, CA 94549. Enrollment information available on the MDUUC website in September.

To Find out More

Three other good books that deal with the war have been published in the past decade:

• Boyd Cothran’s Remembering the Modoc War: Redemptive Violence and the Making of American Innocence explores how memories and histories are created, particularly those asserting that, even in the midst of violence against Indians, Americans remained innocent. Yes, we were, and are, conning ourselves.

• Benjamin Madley’s An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846–1873 sees the Modoc War as the closing act in the purposeful destruction of the state’s Native populations. A grinding, painful accounting of this horrific body count.

• Cheewa James’s Modoc: The Tribe That Wouldn’t Die takes a personal view of the war. Descended from a Modoc war leader, James tells the story of her family’s and her tribe’s survival in the face of violence and racism. She has good reason to be proud.