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Ishi - The Last Yahi Indian
Winter Steel ^ | FR Post 7-24-02 | Editorial Staff

Posted on 07/26/2002 5:10:10 PM PDT by vannrox

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This is an intersting Read.
1 posted on 07/26/2002 5:10:11 PM PDT by vannrox
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To: vannrox
I researched Ishi back in the sixties, in high school. Glad to see it's not been forgotten. It's an amazing story.
2 posted on 07/26/2002 5:13:12 PM PDT by EggsAckley
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To: vannrox
Too bad ol' Ishi didn't hold out longer. Think of the Indian Casino he could've had.
3 posted on 07/26/2002 5:13:36 PM PDT by martin_fierro
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To: vannrox
Ishi provided many anthropological contributions to be sure. However, modern bowhunting also benefited. Thanks to Saxton Pope.
4 posted on 07/26/2002 5:22:18 PM PDT by Jagdgewehr
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To: vannrox
This is an intersting Read.

It might have been. 100% italics are too hard on the eyes.

Please consider plain text.

5 posted on 07/26/2002 5:41:00 PM PDT by LibKill
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To: martin_fierro
You are funny. No really,I think you are very funny.I admit I dont think you are as funny as much as you seem to think you are, but still, you are really funny.

BTW, did you have a point?

6 posted on 07/26/2002 5:46:00 PM PDT by sarasmom
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To: vannrox

Any relation to Ishi Tib?

7 posted on 07/26/2002 5:55:07 PM PDT by Momaw Nadon
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To: vannrox
Wow. I just realized I'm a vannrox posts groupie.
8 posted on 07/26/2002 6:02:40 PM PDT by lizma
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To: vannrox
Ishi is a part of the CA East Bay culture. I did a high school report on him and the SF Bay tribes in the 50s. I wonder how many students in CA have even been made aware of him/them within the present courses. The Parks Dept. Does a pretty good job of posting information on the history of the Bay Area on trails and rec. lands. Much more is needed to preserve the lands heratige. Ignorance, abuse and bigotry - we and our parents are all guilty of. Chief Seattle - whos not much visited grave in Washington - summed it up best.
9 posted on 07/26/2002 6:04:34 PM PDT by Bobibutu
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To: Bobibutu
10 posted on 07/26/2002 6:06:19 PM PDT by Bobibutu
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To: sarasmom
Put down your firewater and squint -- you might be able to see it.

No, really, I'm sure you're quite sober. Just not as sober as you think you are.

11 posted on 07/26/2002 6:15:36 PM PDT by martin_fierro
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To: vannrox
For years after the surrender of Geronimo in 1886 there were isolated raids by renegade Apaches in the United States and Mexico. Finally, tired of the depredations ranchers on the border gathered a volunteer cavalry of 600 men based in Douglas, Arizona to go after the Indians. The year was 1934.

After years of rumors and reported sightings and the discovery of campgrounds an Apache headman confirmed that there were still bands of Apache in the Sierra Madre. Occasionally they would venure north across the border. They did everything to avoid discovery and, aside from an occasional petty theft, avoided whites entirely. The year was 1960.

Even now it is possible, without too much trouble, to go back into the canyonlands of the Navajo Reservation and find elderly Navajo who have seen few, if any, white men in their lifetimes. They speak no English and live the old ways.

There are other groups who have gone back to the old ways. They are not anthropologically significant because they have chosen to leave the modern world and try to live like their ancestors. There is no chain of continuity and a white man could do the same.

Many live in a grey area between old customs and the modern world. It will take centuries for the old cultures to disappear.
12 posted on 07/26/2002 6:21:28 PM PDT by MARTIAL MONK
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To: Bobibutu
My tribe didn't get off the boat until the 1890's. As far as I know, we never bothered any injuns. Get over it.
13 posted on 07/26/2002 6:41:15 PM PDT by chadwimc
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To: martin_fierro

I am not tribal.Nor am I drunk.You are still at the same level of humor I originally commented upon.History is history.Rewrite it at your own risk.

I am still curious as to your point in your first post to this thread.

14 posted on 07/26/2002 7:02:40 PM PDT by sarasmom
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To: EggsAckley; blam
You might like this guy's site, then. Here are some casts and photographs of Ishi's work (be sure to check out some of the non-Ishi stuff too... like some of the woodland cache blades from Illinois and the incredible posters this guy puts out ) :

Lithic Casting Lab

15 posted on 07/26/2002 7:18:55 PM PDT by piasa
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To: piasa
Thanks, I'm familiar with Ishi.
16 posted on 07/26/2002 7:31:24 PM PDT by blam
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To: vannrox
Bravo, Vannrox. Excellent posting. Ishi's story is one of the finest. I used to live in Paradise, down by Chico, and hiked those Lassen trails.
17 posted on 07/26/2002 9:34:04 PM PDT by RDangerfield
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To: vannrox
Ishi apparently wasn't the last Yahi, according to new evidence from UC Berkeley research archaeologist

by Gretchen Kell

Berkeley -- Ishi is a household name in Northern California, where school children have been taught for 85 years that he was the last Yahi, a subgroup of the Yana Indians. "Ishi, the Last Yana Indian, 1916," is etched into the small black jar containing his cremated remains.

But by studying the arrowpoints Ishi made, Steven Shackley, a research archaeologist at the University of California at Berkeley's Hearst Museum of Anthropology, has discovered that Ishi apparently wasn't the last full-blooded Yahi, or Yana, after all.

Instead, Shackley said that Ishi, who was found, starving and afraid, near Oroville in 1911, was of mixed Indian blood -- a finding that revises Ishi's famous history, which many Californians learned by reading "Ishi in Two Worlds" by Theodora Kroeber.

Shackley said that, in light of this new evidence on Ishi, teachers educating children about California history "should be more aware of the complexity of Ishi's situation. It's more complex than Kroeber imagined."

Her book was "simplistic," he said, "not based completely on hard research."

An analysis by Shackley of a large UC Berkeley collection of Ishi's arrowpoints indicates that although he spoke Yahi and had lived in the ancestral Yahi homeland in the Mount Lassen foothills, he also had either Wintu or Nomlaki blood.

"Arrowpoints made in the historic Yahi sites excavated by the Department of Anthropology in the 1950s and housed at the museum are quite different from Ishi's products," said Shackley. "But tools and arrowpoints made at historic Nomlaki or Wintu sites also housed at the museum bear striking resemblance to those made by Ishi."

An expert in stone tool technology, Shackley found that the hundreds of projectile points Ishi made after he left the wilderness had long blades with concave bases and side notches. In contrast, arrowheads in the museum from historic Yahi sites are short and squat, with contracting stems and basal notches.

Although Ishi was culturally Yahi, said Shackley, "it appears he was not the last purely Yahi Indian. He learned to produce arrowpoints not from Yahi relatives, but very possibly from a Nomlaki or Wintu male relative.

"This makes Ishi's story even more romantic and sad," he said. "Being of mixed blood, he is an example of the cultural pressure the Anglos placed on the dwindling number of Indians in the mid- to late-1800s to marry their enemies."

Shackley first investigated Ishi's arrowpoints in 1990. After a hiatus, he resumed work upon hearing evidence at an Ishi conference that physical anthropology suggests Ishi was not completely Yana.

The Wintu, Nomlaki and Maidu belonged to a large group of Indians in the Sacramento Valley who spoke a language called Penutian. They lived adjacent to their enemies, the Yana, who were in the Lassen foothills. The Yana had four subgroups -- the northern, central and southern Yana, and the Yahi -- and each had its own dialect, territory and culture.

Ishi was born into an extended family that, in order to perpetuate life, was forced to intermarry with outsiders, with enemies, said Shackley, and one of Ishi's parents may have been Wintu or Nomlaki. The number of Indians was dwindling, and an incest taboo kept them from choosing a relative as a mate.

"We always thought that Ishi was a survivor who was extremely adaptive," said Shackley. "Now we know he was even more adaptive because he was the product of a society that had to adapt to a situation that was not part of its cultural ideology."

"Ishi didn't talk about his ancestors because his religious beliefs prevented him from doing that. But that's my job as an archaeologist," he said. "And Ishi would have wanted the truth known."

Ishi first made headlines on Aug. 29, 1911, when butchers found him outside a slaughterhouse near Oroville. Initially, he was jailed by the Butte County sheriff. But two UC Berkeley anthropologists, Alfred Kroeber and Thomas Talbot Waterman, befriended Ishi and gave him shelter at the campus' anthropology museum, then in San Francisco.

Kroeber's wife, the author of "Ishi In Two Worlds," wrote that Ishi was "the last wild Indian in North America, a man of Stone Age culture."

The anthropologists pronounced Ishi a Yahi because he spoke Yahi and was found near Yahi territory. They also considered him the last Yahi, said Shackley, since "the only Yahi left in the hinterlands were believed to have been exterminated by Indian killers brought in by whites,"

Furthermore, they believed Ishi was the last Indian to have lived in the wild. Massacres, starvation and disease had taken the lives of countless Indians in Northern California during the mid- to late-1800s. Many others had been forced into reservations.

In 1908, surveyors did spot four Indians in Yahi territory. But in 1909, Waterman and two guides failed to find the group. Two years later, Ishi, who verified that he had been one of the four, appeared alone near Oroville.

"That Ishi was wearing his hair burned short in sign of mourning in August, 1911, was evidence of a death or deaths in his family," wrote Theodora Kroeber, "but his mourning may well have been a prolonged one."

Under pressure from reporters who wanted to know the stranger's name, Alfred Kroeber called him "Ishi," which means "man" in Yana. Ishi never uttered his real name.

"A California Indian almost never speaks his own name," wrote Kroeber's wife, "using it but rarely with those who already know it, and he would never tell it in reply to a direct question."

Ishi was given a home at the University of California's anthropology museum -- then on the UCSF campus in an old law school building. He lived there for most of the rest of his life, except for the summer of 1915, when he lived in Berkeley with Waterman and his family.

While at the museum, Ishi often worked on native crafts, such as the arrowpoints Shackley analyzed. By his own choice, he often did these crafts for museum audiences and would give some of his work away.

"The quality of the arrowpoints Ishi made shows he felt good about himself -- he was a good craftsman," said Shackley. "This positive self-image helped make Ishi a hell of an adaptive person."

Ishi formed close friendships with Waterman and Kroeber and with Saxton Pope, a teacher at the university's medical school, which was next door to the museum. He also agreed to record linguistic material on the Yahi language for UC Berkeley.

In December 1914, Ishi developed what doctors felt was tuberculosis. After several hospitalizations, his friends moved him back to the museum to spend his last days. He died there on March 25, 1916.


Note: Contact Steven Shackley at (510) 643-1193, extension 3. A limited number of photos is available upon request from Gretchen Kell at the UC Berkeley Public Information Office (510) 642-3136.

18 posted on 07/27/2002 3:23:59 AM PDT by ppaul
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To: vannrox
I love this book by Theodora Kroeber. Here's the final portion of it, which mentions Ishi's people's own poignant way of saying goodbye:

Waterman and Kroeber, bound to the reticences of Yana etiquette, made no significant public statement upon Ishi's death. He had walked quietly out of the Neolithic world into their world, and once he was settled in the museum, Ishi and the anthropologists took each other pretty much for granted, as one's family is taken for granted, and one's close friend. Four and more moon cycles waxed and waned and returned, while Ishi stayed on, a part of the changing twentieth century--his two friends had ceased to envision a world without him.

Then he was gone, the long journey from the ancient Yana homeland along Mill and Deer creeks to the Land of the Yana Dead completed, his leavetaking from his friends and their world as quiet as his own preferred and understated phrase of farewell:


19 posted on 07/27/2002 8:53:12 AM PDT by texasbluebell
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To: ppaul
Someone is saying Ishi was of mixed blood because of the way he made arrow points? Seems far fetched. He may have copied arrowpoints he had found, as flintknappers have been known to do, or learned from a person of another cultural group, but that by no means implies he was of mixed blood, although when tribes had been decimated it wasn't unusual for the survivors to join another and blend customs, or to lose their customs entirely to the larger group. Interesting read though, so I'll bump it for a more detailed read later.
20 posted on 07/27/2002 5:28:31 PM PDT by piasa
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