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.