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The Influence of Sacred Rock Cairns and Prayer Seats on Modern Klamath and Modoc Religion and World View


The focus of this article is the spiritual and symbolic significance of two categories of Klamath and Modoc sacred sites: rock cairns and prayer seats. Both site types are generally associated with the traditional practice of the vision quest among the Klamath and Modoc peoples of southern Oregon and northern California. Both tribes, along with the Yahooskin Paiute—recognized federally as the Klamath tribes—are concerned with the protection and preservation of these important sacred sites. After a background discussion focusing on the cultural distribution of cairns and prayer seats, a discussion of the various functional precontact traditional types of rock cairns and prayer seats found in association with some cairns is reviewed. Next, discussions concerning the modern cultural significance of cairns and prayer seats and the continuing practice of erecting cairns are presented. Finally, the importance of rock cairns and prayer seats to the shaping of modem Klamath and Modoc world view is discussed.

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