The Modoc and the Matah Kagmi, Yah’yahaas or Sasquatch
My Grandfather was born in 1853; he later fought in the Modoc War in defense of our Homeland. It was the same story as most defeat, family being murdered and sent away.
Grandfather did not like the Klamath Reservation and soon returned to the part of the country he loved. It was by some very good fortune and help of a white friend in Yreka California he was able to buy some land in the mountains. He built a cabin and lived there from then on until his death in 1935. He fell asleep on a riverbank and never woke up. Grandfather lived a long and eventful life but not always a happy one.
He told me a story when I was a child and never tired of hearing it. His first contact with Matah Kagmi was one evening in the summer of 1897. He was walking along a deer trail near a lake just about dusk, when he saw up ahead something that looked like a tall bush. When he walked closer, he smelled a strong kind of musky odor. He looked closer at the bush and suddenly realized that it was not a bush at all it was covered in a thick coarse hair much like horse hair. He took a step closer but the creature made a sound that sounded like “Nyyaaaah!” Grandfather knew this was what the old ones spoke of “Matah Kagmi”.
Although it was growing dark fast, Grandfather was able to see quite clearly two soft brown eyes through all that hair. The creature moved slightly and Grandfather made a motion of friendship and laid down the string of fish he had been carrying. The creature evidently understood this as it snatched up the fish and struck out towards the timber that was nearby. It stopped for a moment and made a sound that my Grandfather never forgot a long low “Aagooooouummmt”. Grandfather never told anyone outside the family the story, he called them people too. He called them Matah Kagmi.
It was a few weeks after his encounter that he was awakened one morning by some strange noises outside his cabin. Upon investigating, he found a stack of deerskins fresh and ready to be tanned. Off in the distance he heard the strange sound again “Aagoooouummmt”. After this, there were other items left from time to time, wood, acorns, wild berries and fruit.
It was a few years later that he had his second but far more amazing contact with his friend. Grandfather had taken a job with some white men from San Francisco area to help them search for gold that was supposed to be on Mt. Shasta.
Grandfather never much cared for money but times had changed and living off the land was increasingly getting harder and harder. The men had a map and were bound and determined to find that gold they were told was there. Grandfather agreed to show them the area but he could scarcely conceal the fact that he thought all white men were a little crazy that searched for this yellow metal. They stated if he helped them find the Gold, he too would be a rich man. It made no difference to him one way or the other.
After the treasure hunter party had reached the base of Mt. Shasta, they began drinking a lot so Grandfather told them he would go on ahead and explore some of the lower level rock shelves, as they were in no condition to do so themselves. So that next morning he set out up a mountain trail, after a bit of climbing he reached one of the shelves he wished to examine. Then it happened, a timber rattler struck him in the leg without warning.
Grandfather killed the snake and started heading down the mountain trail to a more comfortable spot but soon found it very difficult to continue walking. The best he can remember is that he became sick to his stomach and fainted. When he came too, he thought he must be dreaming for there were three large Matah Kagmi about eight to ten feet tall surrounding him. He noticed they had made a small cut on the snakebite and somehow removed the venom and placed cool moss on the wound. Then one of the Matah Kagmi made a kind of grunting sound and the two lifted him and carried him down a trail he did not know. Finally after some decent down the mountainside they placed him under a low brushy tree and left. Again Grandfather heard their mournful cry “Aagooooouummmm”.
After a long while he began to feel better and took his old .44 caliber cap and ball pistol out and began firing off some shots in the air. Finally the gold party found him; Grandfather said nothing about the encounter with the Matah Kagmi.
He was taken back to where the pack mules were tied up and then on to the nearest town where he rested for a few days. He then returned home. Grandfather only told his family about the encounter and after that he would never take any amount of money to go to that region again. He said “it was a Holy Place, Matah Kagmi lives there and they are my friends”.
For many years after that in the still of the evening or sometimes late at night, he would hear the sound he now knew “Aagooooouumm” the call of the Matah Kagmi.
Grandfather went on to state that they were not vicious but very shy, especially to white men. They generally came out in the evenings and at night. They lived chiefly on roots they dug and berries and only ate meat in the bitterest of cold weather. Their homes are in the deep mountain side Burroughs unknown to any man.
I never grew tired of these stories my Grandfather told me as a boy, he said they were true and I believe him. May his Spirit always know Peace.
Written by a Modoc, Spring of 1970
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