One hundred years after Captain Jack was gunned down,
unarmed by Indian hunter Ben Wright,
my mother carries me in her arms
north through Modoc country.
Dad drives the pick-up,
his dark forearm resting on the open window,
lava beds on the right,
historical markers on the left,
on a highway paved with bones,
over Indian America.
“Ben Wright told them he would like to hunt Indians,
so [he] got some men that liked to hunt Indians
to go with him. When they all got together
they numbered over one hundred men . . .
They all left Yreka . . . to hunt down the Modoc Indians . . .
Wright traveled all through the Klamath Indian country,
Klamath Indians wherever he could
find them. He went through Goose Lake country,
Paiute Indians wherever
he got the chance . . .
On the south bank of Lost River . . .
Ben Wright looks along his gun barrel;
he turns slowly around to his men
and says: “Boys don’t spare the squaws;
get them all!”
The whites shot them
down so fast on the south bank,
they jumped in the river . . .
When they got about halfway across,
the whites on the north bank opened fire
on them. Only five escaped . . .
the citizens [of Yreka] gave Wright a big dance.
He was . . . the mighty Indian Hunter,
Savage Civilizer, Peace Maker, etc.”
from Frank Riddle, Modoc survivor.
food for coyotes, etc.
on the banks of Lost River,
on the banks of all the rivers in America
in the America of the Lost.
“Now what shall I do?
Shall I run every time I see white people?”
Captain Jack’s father asks. Every Indian asks
this, even those of us whoare half-white.
That’s why we’re always running
away from ourselves
and falling into rivers
some of us escaping,
into the sights of a gun.
My mother’s white. Her milk is sweet.
Her freckled skin looks like flour tortillas.
Our truck lulls me to sleep, subdues me
as we drive through Klamath country,
past every historical marker Dad ignores
determinedly. My mother carries me
over the unmarked killing grounds:
the highways of America.
We never stop. Dad drives.
He drives. We never stop.
Mom speed reads an historical map:
If you are Indian
you are not