Tulelake is a very small agricultural community situated in the volcanic northeastern corner of California, a few miles south of the Oregon border. It takes it's name from nearby Tule Lake. The Tule Lake Basin, spawned from gigantic volcanos eons ago, dominates the geography of the region and has determined it's economic significance since humans first drifted into the area tens of thousands of years ago. Scholars believe that the first Native Americans to arrive were migratory hunter-gathers that were attracted by the unbelievably rich wildlife that thrives in this area. These unnamed ancient wanderers eventually settled into the area and were thus the direct ancestors of the present day Klamath, Modoc, and Yahooskin Tribes.
This region's Native American tribes have a rich culture that emphasizes man's interrelationship with the rest of the natural world. Inter-personal and inter-communal strife, of course, existed within and between the tribes, but on the whole, man's presence was not disruptive of the natural rhythms of life in this remote corner of the world. This way of life continued to exist until the nineteenth century, when European emigrants began to percolate westward in search of land to farm. In 1846, Jesse and Lindsay Applegate blazed a new trail into Oregon that passed through the Tule Lake region. A few years later, gold was discovered in California and the Applegate trail became an important avenue south into the gold fields.
It did not take long for friction to develop between emigrants and Native Americans. In the 1850s, several encounters took place that killed people on both sides of the cultural divide. The most important occurred at Bloody Point between settlers and Modoc Indians, but it was not the only one. A few years before, John Fremont's party clashed with Klamath Indians and numerous other personal encounters inevitably took place throughout the region, as two foreign cultures met and interacted. The hostility that developed between settler and Indian culminated in a prolonged battle between the United States Army and a small band of Modoc Indians on the edge of Tule Lake in 1872 - 1873. The Army prevailed in this, the last Californian Indian War and the penultimate American Indian War, and the way was cleared for Anglo-European settlement.
Early in the twentieth century, it was decided that Tule Lake should be drained so as to create more agricultural land. A new wave of immigrants arrived - some from Europe and some from within the United States. By the end of 1921, the Klamath Reclamation Project had successfully opened vast tracks of new land that were quickly transformed into fertile farmland. A vibrant culture based on agriculture emerged and a new way of life permeated the area until the end of the century when it was decided that water had to be diverted from farming to the preservation of river flows downstream from Tule Lake. One of the principal points of contention was the health of salmon during their annual migration to spawn in the upper waters of the Klamath River. Understandably, those that depended on that water for their livelihood were hurt and angered. Considerable bitterness emerged throughout the region. It is an exceptionally complex set of issues and deserves the careful attention that it is getting from all sides.
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