Klamath Tribes purchases house along Highway 62 with spring-fed creek and more than 7 acres of land

In late December, the Klamath Tribes purchased a house located next to Crooked Creek along Highway 62 just outside of Fort Klamath. The purchasing price was $700,000. The Tribal Council approved the deal at a December meeting. The 1,487-square-foot house on 7.69 acres has views of the Wood River Valley and abuts two spring-water creeks. Built in 2000, it’s a two-story single-family dwelling with two bedrooms, two baths, and no car garage.

This reporter joined Klamath Tribes Chairman Clay Dumont for an on-site visit to the house. As we toured the property surrounded by aspen, Dumont was overjoyed with the location and the clear spring-fed Tecumseh and Crooked Creeks that wind through the property. “There were several of us on the Council that were very excited about it,” he said. “Very excited about being able to protect this water. As you can see, there’s no cleaner water on the planet.”

He explained that Tecumseh Creek runs out of the ground just across the highway and feeds into Crooked Creek on the property, and the surrounding mountainsides have natural springs that are used to feed nearby Agency Lake. Endangered red band trout migrate up the creeks in fall to spawn, and Dumont explained that the creeks used to have suckers that were a different color than the c’waam, koptu. 

He pointed to an abandoned home near the property that used to be Seldon Kirk’s property. He was chairman for life in the 1930s and 40s and was Dumont’s great-grandfather’s younger brother. “That side of the family talks about different colored suckers, purple colored, that were up in here. They tasted different. They were better, they thought, than the c’wwam and koptu. But those fish are gone now.”

Dumont added that the reacquired property is also an important cultural site. “I don’t want to say too much about the importance of it, but tribal members can get with the Culture and Heritage Department if they’re interested. Also, Council Grove is very close, which is where our ancestors signed the treaty,” he said.

The house has been under some tribal member ownership over the years, Dumont said. “If you go way back, this was tribal property for a long time. And I’m not just talking about, you know, pre-treaty. I’m talking about afterward when it was in private property hands. It was owned by tribal members.”

The property owner was in favor of the Tribes owning it, Dumont said, and there were multiple offers for the house. “They wanted the tribes to have it,” he said. “And they called us, and we had to move pretty quickly on it.”

The decision now is what to do with the house and property. Many suggestions have been made, but Dumont stressed that the priority of the purchase was for water protection. “I want to emphasize that the most important thing right now is that we’ve got the water protected,” he said. “That was the underlying importance for those of us on the Council that were pushing to buy. It was just to protect this water.”

However, many tribal departments have expressed interest in using the house. “There are a number of things that could happen with it,” he said. “We’re probably talking at the next General Council meeting about reintroducing salmon and whether the tribes want to be part of that. This might be a place where we could do that. It could be a bed and breakfast that could generate income for the tribes. It could be a place where when we try to bring in professionals who can’t find housing, it can be temporary for them to stay while they’re looking for housing. There are two or three departments that are interested in it. I think it would be a beautiful place for people who are in recovery, you know, to come and sweat and get well.”

Dumont said he hoped the Tribes would be proactive with other important properties with tribal connections to the past. But right now, he is basking in the purchase of this property. “I hope it never leaves our possession again,” he said glowingly. “Given how hard it is to get these lands back. Yeah, I would expect that it’ll be ours forever.”