What is the
Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma? Tribe in negotiations to purchase
Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma has been making its presence felt in
the Klamath and Tulelake basins over the past year by
purchasing land, opposing re-designation of Lava Beds
National Monument as a national park and being in ongoing
discussions with the city of Tulelake to buy the Tulelake
Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma is a federally recognized tribe with
about 300 members. It is the smallest tribe in Oklahoma and
is located in Ottawa County in the northeast corner of the
members are descendants of Kintpuash’s, also known as
Captain Jack, band of Modoc people who were removed as
prisoners of war following the end of the 1872-73 Modoc War.
On Oct. 12, 1873, 155 Modocs — 42 men, 59 women and 54
children — were taken by train to the Quapaw Indian
Reservation in Indian Territory, which is now Oklahoma.
After six years, their population shrank to 99 and by 1891
to 68. In recent years, however, the number of enrollees has
1950s, the federally recognized status of the Klamath
Tribes, which includes Modoc and Yahooskin people, was
terminated, which ended federal assistance. The Modoc Tribe
of Oklahoma reorganized independently and gained federal
recognition in 1978.
tribe, led for the past 40-plus years by Chief Bill G.
Follis and based in Miami, Okla., has established the
Stables Casino, Red Cedar Recycling, reintroduced a bison
herd and pursued other business ventures, including
participation a controversial payday loan program, as a part
of the Tribe’s economic development plan.
According to its website, the tribe offers a variety of
programs that benefit tribal members. The tribe’s website
says a Modoc land base is being reestablished near the Modoc
Mission Church and Cemetery in Ottawa County.
Follis has said the tribal council “is currently working to
return to the (Tulelake-Lava Beds) area, with the initiative
of investing in the local rural communities by establishing
businesses and tribal offices for the promotion of job
creation and economic development.
current economic footprint spans over 150 jobs in Oklahoma,
Kansas, Illinois, Utah and Texas and we contribute
significant sums annually throughout the local communities
the Tribe is involved in.”
2017 the Tulelake Basin, the tribe purchased 800 acres of
private land near Lava Beds National Monument.
interview last year, Blake Follis, Bill Follis’s grandson
who is a member of the tribal council and the tribe’s
attorney, said the tribe will determine uses for the
property but has declined to comment since then.
purchase price for the acreage, also known as the Fleener
Ranch, located north and west of the park, was $250,000. No
discussions on future use of the property was held at the
tribe’s annual meeting in May, according to Cheewa James, a
tribal member who was in attendance.
Historically, the land was known as the Fleener Homestead
and was owned by Sam Fleener, who served as a teamster
during the Modoc War. Fleener’s Chimney, a group of volcanic
vents and spatter cones within the Lava Beds, is named for
the sale, the property had been owned by the O’Keeffe family
since 1929. A well provides water for about 160 acres while
the rest of the land is sagebrush, juniper and lava rock.
Most of the land is surrounded by national forest.
recently, the tribe has been in negotiations with the city
of Tulelake on the possible purchase of the Tulelake
Airport, which is on land that was part of the World War II
era Tule Lake Detention-Segregation Center. Discussions have
been held in closed executive sessions, but any possible
action will require two public hearings before any decisions
are made. In 2011, the Modoc Tribe created a business, Modoc
Aviation, Inc., as part of its economic development plan.
possible sale may be complicated by the 1951 patent that
deeded 359 acres of the former Tule Lake center to the city
of Tulelake and stipulates the land be used as an airport.
The patent says the property “shall automatically revert to
the United States ... in the event the lands in question are
not developed, or cease to be used for airport purposes.” It
also states “such airport will be operated as a public
also specifies, “Any subsequent transfer of the property
interest conveyed hereby will be made subject to all the
covenants, conditions and limitations contained in this
addition, the patent says, “In the event of a breach of any
condition or covenant herein imposed, the Administration of
Civil Aeronautics, or its successor in function, may
immediately enter and possess himself of title to the here
in-conveyed lands for and on behalf of the United States of
airport property is also the subject of dispute in regards
to its World War II legacy. Lawsuits have been filed by the
Tule Lake Committee, which includes Japanese-Americans who
were incarcerated during the war at Tule Lake and their
families, against the city and Modoc County in 2014 and
2017. The lawsuits claim proposals to rebuild an 8-foot-tall
fence around the airport, primarily to prevent wildlife from
crossing the airfield, “would contribute to the destruction
of a sacred Japanese American historic site.”
Tulelake Mayor Hank Ebinger has declined comment on the
possible sale of the airport because discussions have been
in closed sessions.
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