Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

by Dee Brown

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Summary and Analysis Chapter 10: The Ordeal of Captain Jack

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Captain Jack/Kintpuash: Modoc chief who sought to keep his tribe in California Lava Beds and was betrayed by Hooker Jim and hanged by the Army.

Hooker Jim: Modoc chief who disagreed with Captain Jack’s strategy and later betrayed Captain Jack to the Army.

The Modocs, a tribe living in Northern California near Tule Lake, are led by Captain Jack. After signing a treaty during the Civil War that situated them on the Klamath reservation in Oregon, conflicts with the Klamaths, who felt the Modocs were intruders on their land, prompted the Modocs to go back south. The Army and the Modocs skirmish in late November 1872, and in the aftermath of the skirmish, the Modocs head for sanctuary in the California Lava Beds. Shortly thereafter, a separate band of Modocs led by Hooker Jim kills 12 white settlers at local ranch houses. The Modocs decide to fight the Army rather than surrender Jim’s band, and they defeat the soldiers. A peace commission then arrives, and Hooker Jim escapes arrest. General Canby, who had let Jim’s band escape through accidental neglect, came in with his troops, and in the spring of 1873, Army negotiations with Captain Jack fail. Hooker Jim and Captain Jack argue, and under pressure from Jim’s supporters, Jack vows to kill Canby if he doesn't let the Modocs have their homeland. Canby does not grant the request, and Jack kills him. Hooker Jim then betrays Jack to the Army, and Jack is hanged on October 3, 1873.

The readers see, in the clashes between Klamaths and Modocs on the Klamath reservation, that Indian tribes sometimes put their disputes with each other before their collective dispute with the whites. Indeed, this theme of internal clashes among Indians is present throughout the chapter. Captain Jack’s decision to retreat to the California Lava Beds gained the Modocs a stronghold against the whites, but trouble emerged from within after the murders by Hooker Jim’s band. Jack, pressured by Hooker Jim’s successful push to fight the Army rather than surrender as criminals, and his threat to kill surrendering Modocs, unwisely promised to kill General Canby if his demands weren’t met. In that murder, and Jim’s betrayal of Jack, the readers see how disunity and treachery could easily push Indians to make unwise strategic decisions in their responses to whites. The members of Hooker Jim’s band win freedom through their betrayal, but that individual freedom ensures that the tribe’s own freedom will be short-lived.

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