Ishi: the Last Yahi

The above entitled film was a very interesting documentary. The emotions ricochet like a billiard ball around a pool table. Curiosity, shock, disbelief, amazement, anger: the reaction to humanity at its worst, at its best, and the standard government indifference.

We’ve heard of stories of Japanese soldiers hidden away on islands or forgotten atolls for many years after WWII. But it truly sparks the curiosity to hear of survivors who escaped multiple massacre attempts remaining hidden from white men for up to forty years in Northern California, with only one, Ishi, coming out alive in the end.

The courage it took for Ishi to leave his hidden domain, alone, and confront the race that committed acts of genocide against his family and tribe is no less than superhuman. And then the first white man he sees strikes him down with a stick, and he is led away to be locked up in an asylum; and yet, Ishi still does not get bitter. Amazing!

I do not believe Alfred Kroeber was as concerned about Ishi as was portrayed until he realized – too late – that he was partly responsible for Ishi’s untimely death. Kroeber was an academic with a specimen to study. Even after Ishi’s accommodating nature began to win Kroeber over Ishi was still treated more like a mascot or pet than an equal. After all, real friends do not try to get you to exchange your heritage as a publicity stunt, put you on display like a freak in a carnival show, or force you to endure the company of two men (the surveyors) who robbed your family’s village of every necessity, including food and fur coats, during winter. And to add insult to the injury they bartered with the surveyors for items they had stolen from Ishi’s village – in front of Ishi – showing Ishi that the thieves once again profited off the death of his family and friends.




8 thoughts on “Ishi: the Last Yahi

    • jwtatfbc March 2, 2016 / 4:53 am

      I love to learn about a lot of things, and some I feel are worthy to share with the hope that it might make even one person look at the topic a little differently. Thank you for responding, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mary Cathleen Clark March 2, 2016 / 5:07 am

        I did know what we were taught in school concerning Native Americans was BS. Later in life, I learned it was white men who began the practice of scalping, gave smallpox infected blankets to those on reservations, and other horrible stuff.
        Have you seen the movie Little Big Man?

        Liked by 1 person

      • jwtatfbc March 2, 2016 / 5:15 am

        Yes, I have seen it… and many, many others. I told you I’ve studied that side of my heritage for quite a few years now. And I had to admit that there’s bad on both sides. Which is okay, since I’m a half-breed anyway. Ha ha

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mary Cathleen Clark March 2, 2016 / 5:20 am

        I’m not half . . . Seems like I’m 1/16th, will have to check. A couple of years ago, I went to the Dawes Final Roll website and got all the information on record about my maternal grandmother, whose family was assigned a roll number. I also printed up the documentation I would need to become a member of the Cherokee nation, but haven’t followed up on it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • jwtatfbc March 2, 2016 / 5:25 am

        I was more interested in finding out the cultural roots that I lost after my mom split. But I found the history of all the tribal nations interested me, so I took up studying it in-depth in college.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mary Cathleen Clark March 2, 2016 / 5:46 am

        You are a fountain of knowledge, JW. It would be interesting to hear about the things you have learned. I’m more one to turn to fiction than nonfiction. I think I like the escape, living other lives through books.

        Liked by 1 person

      • jwtatfbc March 2, 2016 / 5:53 am

        I enjoy the fiction/fantasy angle as well. And, in fact, learning about the real stuff illuminates the fiction/fantasy because the more I know about a certain period, place, or culture allows me to expand the narrative in my mind even when the writer may not be able to.

        Liked by 1 person

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