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The Klamath

Page history last edited by Michael 4 months ago

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     A Native American culture centered around Klamath Lake, in Oregon.

     Do note that this is just a sketchy description of several related cultures, set in a post-apocalyptic future. No offense intended! Don't use this page as a reference to any real-life tribal practices or beliefs, etc.

     Another point:  there are no fixed dictionaries, mass media, or commonly-accepted written histories among the Klamath in the 22nd Century. Beliefs, practices in daily life, political and clan relationships, etc. can be (and often are) very different in some communities from the "standard" presented here.



     The people residing around Klamath Lake call themselves the Klamath people; they are part of a larger social (intermarried, interrelated)  group with the Modoc (to the south, into California) and Yahuskin (to the east).

     They don't use money (but do know about it). They often use gifting for food, but the conservative adults lament that nowadays "kids barter for things, and expect something in return."

     Baskets, trays, mats, sacks, other housewares, hats, and many other items are made from woven tule cords, and lengths of old wire. There's a fair amount of salvaged material in use:  nails, hand tools, pots and pans, ceramics, bits of glass, pieces of more durable plastic and rubber ...




     The language has only some vocabulary in common with the "old" Klamath language; it's really a mutated form of English, unintelligible to most outsiders. There are a lot of glottal stops in the old Klamath language, and some of that has carried over to "new Klamath".


Clothing and Appearance


     Widows and widowers coat their faces with pitch and charcoal until remarried. There are lots of other taboos, specific to men, women, youths, elders, hunters, pregnant women, and just about any other portion of society.

     Clothing include gaiters, moccasins, loin-cloths and robes, mostly made from buckskin; better clothing (worn at feasts and festivals) will have embroidery of beads, coins, washers, porcupine quills, and bits of plastic. Women wear a sort of bowl-shaped hat, with a feather in their hair, men wear a sort of baseball hat or headband in the summer, fur hats in the winter. Necklaces of shells, beads or (if you're very manly) bear or mountain lion claws are common. There's a lot of ear and nose piercing, and some visible facial tattoos; the adult women (or token women) usually wear three vertical stripes of paint (red, yellow, black or white) on their chin.




     Weapons are clubs (usually a length of lead pipe), axes (with old steel heads), knives, and self bows. Bows are definitely the "war weapon"; nobody practices fighting with melee weapons, but archery is both practiced and used for hunting.




     At a feast, foods include apple cider, manzanita cider, buckwheat beer; roasted or oven-cooked meats, mainly antelope. Flat buckwheat noodles are provided, too. Have a nice blackberry pie, with a buckwheat crust! Men (excluding men-passing-for-women) are served before women.


  • Domestic Animals

    • sheep:  wool, dairy and mutton

    • goat:  wool, dairy and meat

    • horse:  for riding, not eaten

  • Meat - Hunted

    • various deer

    • pronghorn antelope (taste varies widely by season and how the hunter treats the meat)

    • bear (hard to kill)

    • rabbit

    • gopher

    • mountain lion, wildcat (for fur only, not eaten)

    • duck (bluebill and harlequin mostly); migrant waterfowl are busiest March-April and October-November

      • duck eggs also; many are preserved in a fashion similar to 'century eggs'

    • Canadian goose

    • mountain quail

    • turkey (not native, but found about 1 per square kilometer west of the lake, even more in the Grants Pass/Roseburg/Medford area)

    • pelican, heron, egret, hummingbird, owl, eagle, etc. are not considered food, though they are sometimes hunted for their feathers or skins

  • Meat - Fished (not all from the lake, though)

    • various "suckerfish":  mullet, c'waam and qapdo

    • eel and lamprey

    • bullhead catfish (introduced in the 19th Century)

    • trout, mostly Klamath redband, bull or steelhead (summer run)

      • King salmon are abundant running 6 to 30 pounds on the Klamath and Trinity in September. They are joined by a healthy run of fall steelhead that include large numbers of 1 to 2 pound "halfpounders" in addition to adults between 3 and 12 pounds.

    • crawdad or crawfish. A stream with no crawdads is considered 'unclean'.

    • pond turtle (hibernates October through April, underground)

    • mussels (spring only, in the river; but traditionally seen as 'unclean')

    • frog

  • Fruit and Vegetables

    • blackberry -- the most common fruit

    • wild celery

    • camas root

    • serviceberry

    • wild plum, plus a few old orchard plum trees

    • chokecherry

    • elderberry

    • swampberry

    • wild raspberry

    • huckleberry

    • apple

    • manzanita berry -- used to make a beverage rather like cider, and as a sweetener

    • milkweed -- made into a sort  of chewing gum

    • tobacco, for smoking. It's very strong, and mostly used for ritual purposes. 

    • dried lake algae -- not liked by kids. "Eat your algae, it's packed with vitamins."

    • buckwheat, used to make porridge ("groats" or kasha), flour (including pancakes and noodles (sort of like soba)), and even beer. The hulls are used for filling cushions. Buckwheat is about the only "planted" foodstuff.

    • wokas pod (yellow water lilies from shallow lake waters) -- an important foodstuff

    • potatoes

    • "common" onions

    • sugar beets (or mangelwurzel, Swiss chard, etc.)


     The Klamath people harvest wokas pods in late summer with small boats, tule rafts or dugout canoes, poling around in the shallow water. The harvesting season is about six weeks, from mid-August to the end of September.

     Some of the pods are placed in a small pit, barrel or drum and allowed to ferment, turning into a doughy mass. After a few weeks, the seeds are scooped from the fermentation container, dried in the sun, and drained. Next they are fried in a thick-bottomed frying pan, and swell up quite a bit. The fried or parched food (called 'shanks') can be eaten dry, and tastes somewhat like popcorn; or used rather like oatmeal. Salt and cream are considered useful flavorings.

     Another use for the pods is to dry them, pound or grind them into flour or meal, winnow and sift out the not-so-edible bits, and use them as a sort of flour. Various grades of pods, from various parts of the drying process, can produce a variety of nutty/flour-y foodstuffs.

     The Klamath might trade (barter, really) their better foodstuffs at the equivalent of 10 cents a pound.

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