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The story of Indian and white relations on the Lower Klamath has important historical, economic, and sociological ramifications. The Indians in northwest California found themselves in the early 1850s engulfed by a flood of miners, adventurers, and packers. Despite the efforts of Colonel McKee, war came. In 1855 as a result of the Red Cap War, the Klamath River Reservation was established, with its agency at Wau-Kell. During the years, 1855-1861, the Yurok were encouraged to develop self-sufficient agricultural communes. These gave every promise of success. Other Indians were moved onto the Reservation. The Tolowa, having engaged in blood feuds with certain of the Yurok villages, refused to stay. After the massacre of February 1860, the surviving Mad and Eel River Indians found the Reservation a haven of refuge.

The floods of 1861-62 destroyed the Wau-Kell Agency and devastated the farms, causing the agency employees to abandon the Reservation. While the Mad and Eel River Indians were moved to the newly established Smith River Reservation, the Yurok remained on the Klamath. For the next 15 years, the Department of the Interior seemingly forgot about its reserve on the Klamath, and the Yurok were permitted to shift for themselves. In the 1870s squatters moved on to the Reservation, and the Department of the Interior was compelled to call on the army to evict the trespassers. Unlike most reservation Indians, the Yurok had not been dependent on the government, and they had been compelled to make their own way. By the time the Congress enacted legislation in 1892 abandoning the Klamath River Reservation and permitting the Yurok to take up allotments, they had abandoned many of the customs of their fathers and had adopted the way of life of the white man. Economically the Yurok were better off than most reservation Indians, who had suffered from an excess of paternalism. Today the Yurok, though the number of full-bloods is limited, have been integrated into the economic and social life of the region.

As the former Klamath River Reservation played an important role in the political, social, economic, and military history of the area, the portion included in Redwood National Park should be designated Class VI Land. The best site on which to tell the story of the Klamath Indian Reservation would be at Wau-Kell Flat. If it is impossible to acquire Wau-Kell Flat, the story of the Reservation should be interpreted at both the Park Visitor Center and at an interpretive station near Dad's Camp.

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Last Updated: 15-Jan-2004