Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rest In Peace, Ishi...!

Here is a story for Western Wednesday that is a little different than usual.

It just goes to show that we aren't all that far removed from what we consider our distant past. Sad to see the passing of a true "last of his kind!"


Aug 29, 1911:
Ishi discovered in California

Ishi, described as the last surviving Stone Age Indian in the contiguous United States, is discovered in California.

By the first decade of the 20th century, Euro-Americans had so overwhelmed the North American continent that scarcely any Native Americans remained who had not been assimilated into Anglo society to some degree. Ishi appears to have been something of an exception. Found lost and starving near an Oroville, California, slaughterhouse, he was largely unfamiliar with white ways and spoke no English.

Authorities took the mysterious Indian into custody for his own protection. News of the so-called "Stone Age Indian" attracted the attention of a young Berkeley anthropologist named Thomas Waterman. Gathering what partial vocabularies existed of northern California Indian dialects, the speakers of which had mostly vanished, Waterman went to Oroville to meet the Indian. After unsuccessfully hazarding words from several dialects, Waterman tried a few words from the language of the Yana Indians. Some were intelligible to Ishi, and the two men were able to engage in a crude dialogue. The following month, Waterman took Ishi to live at the Berkeley University museum, where their ability to communicate gradually improved.

Waterman eventually learned that Ishi was a Yahi Indian, an isolated branch of the northern California Yana tribe. He was approximately 50 years old and was apparently the last of his people. Ishi said he had wandered the mountains of northern California for some time with a small remnant of the Yahi people. Gradually, accident or disease had killed his companions. A white man murdered his final male companion, and Ishi wandered alone until he reached Oroville.

For five years, Ishi lived at the Berkeley Museum. He and Waterman became close friends, and he spent his days describing his tribal customs and demonstrating his wilderness skills in archery, woodcraft, and other traditional techniques. He learned to understand and survive in the white world, and enjoyed wandering the Bay area communities and riding on the trolley cars. Eventually, though, Ishi contracted tuberculosis. He died on March 25, 1916, at an estimated age of 56. His body was cremated according to the customs of his people.


Think of all the things that someone like this could teach us. Many skills for surviving and making do in the often unfriendly wilderness, that's for sure! Think of all the history that was lost with the death of this one individual!

Coffee on the patio this morning. We can move inside if it starts to rain! Let's toast to Ishi, may he rest in peace!

14 comments:

Bob Mc said...

If you haven't read the story of Ishi, you've missed a great read.

HermitJim said...

Hey Bob...
I'll have to see if I can find out more about him.

Thanks for the heads up and for the visit!

Sixbears said...

I remember reading a book about him as a kid. It was fasinating, yet a little sad.

Billy Bob said...

Today's post sent me off to Google to get "the rest of the story". As always, Wednesday is my favorite at Hermit's cave (house).
Today's story was quite fascinating due to the era (early 1900)when most Indians had been rounded up and placed in reservations.....or killed. I would recommend this read to everyone interested in the old west.
Google is your best friend.

HermitJim said...

Hey Sixbears...
Hard to remember that this wasn't that long ago!

Sounds like a thing that would make a good movie!

Thanks for coming over today!


Hey Billy Bob...
Lots of interesting things to learn about out there!

I'm glad that you enjoy Wednesday here for the western stories. I'll continue with it as long as I can.

Thanks for coming by, my friend!

JOJO said...

Great Post, I will have to look into this book also. Thanks for finding this and passing it along to us.

Pass the pot please I need a refill. :)

Craig Cavanaugh said...

I would think being the last of my kind would be crushing, yet Ishi thrived in his new world. Just goes to show how adaptable the human spirit can be!

Dizzy-Dick said...

As a kid, I was always fascinated with the stories that my Grandpa told. Most were true (grin). He was an engineer on a steam locomotive and had a lot of true stories to tell of the old railroad days. We need to listen more intently to the old folks or a lot of history will be lost.

Anonymous said...

How is the new kitteh cat???? Wondering..bet you are a spoiling the little darling boy or is it a gal?????? Keep smiling, if I lived near I would bring a pot of tea and spend some time yakking or talking quietly to you and petting the new kitty, since I don't here's hoping you all have a wonderful day, wedneday half way to the weekend, yee hah!!!!!!!

HermitJim said...

Hey JoJo...
Worth looking into, I think.

There are several books written about him from what I understand.

Thanks, sweetie, for coming over today!


Hey Craig...
It is a hard thing to even imagine, being the last one of your kind.

Amazing to think how well he functioned in his new world. Guess adaptation was one way to survive!

Hey, thanks for dropping by, my friend!


Hey Dizzy...
So much of the stories told to us by the Elders are filled with history and yet we seem to cast them aside!

Back in the olden days, folks learned from them and a large portion of the customs and knowledge of the past was handed down from generation to generation!

We have all but managed to cut ourselves off from our past in favor of the "convieniances of the modern age! Sad!

Thanks, buddy, for coming over today!


Hey Anon 10:21...
As much as I hate to admit it, he is getting a little spoiled. He is working on getting me trained to do his bidding!

You know how cats are! Gotta be in charge!

Thanks so much for coming by today!

thecottagebythecranelakeolof1 said...

Very interesting!

I'll try to find some more about his life and history now!

Have a great day!
Christer.

treesong said...

Interesting story about Ishi but not surprising that a white man killed his last companion.

HermitJim said...

Hey Christer...
It makes for some good reading, from what I'm told!

Many thanks for coming by today!


Hey Tree...
We do have an interesting habit of killing anything we don't understand. Our guideline seems to be...control it or kill it!

Thanks, Treesong, for dropping in today!

ladyhawthorne said...

There's a good documentary I saw on Netflix too.