Thomas Doty – Storyteller


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In northeast California, on the south shore of Tule lake, was the Modoc village of Gumbat. Not much is left of this "village among the rocks" except for bedrock mortar holes along the shore, depressions where winter houses once stood and a rock carving in the heart of the village that announces, "This is the place."

It is likely people living at Gumbat witnessed the Crab Nebula supernova in 1054. There are two caves not far from the village with paintings that dramatize the event. There is also an old story that tells of a long, cold winter. After running out of food, the people were saved from starvation when a herd of antelope fell through the ice, trapping them in the lake and making them easy prey for hungry hunters from the village.

On January 3, 1827, Peter Skene Ogden's company of Hudson's Bay trappers arrived at Gumbat and found it empty. It is unclear if the Modocs had abandoned the village or had simply gone hunting. Ogden wrote in his journal: "We took the liberty of demolishing their Huts for fire wood.... I should certainly regret that our side should cause a quarrel with these Indians, for so far their conduct toward us has been certainly most correct and orderly and worthy of imitation by all."

Less than 50 years later, much of the Modoc War was fought a hundred yards to the south, ending the traditional ways of life in the ancient village of Gumbat.