Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Ishi Discovered In California...!

Can you imagine being alone and just wandering around, knowing you are the last of your people?

That was the case when they discovered Ishi, the last Stone Age Indian known to exist. What a startling culture shock that must have been for Ishi. Here is his story.

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.

What a feeling of loneliness Ishi must have felt, given the circumstance. Tragic to say the least. At least he had a friend to assist him.

Coffee out on the soggy patio this morning. I'm hoping to see a little sunshine today, since the rain seems to have stopped!

6 comments:

JO said...

What a sad story but ended better than it began of course the TB wasn't better.

I heard your area should not receive anymore rain I hope that is so. Good to see you posting which lets me know you are still safe.

Janet said...

I have this book and was moved by the story of Ishi. Thanks for posting.

linda m said...

I remember reading about Ishi. How sad that he had to live alone and that all his people died. At least he had a friend near the end of his life. Happy to hear you are doing okay and haven't floated away.

HermitJim said...

Hey Jo...
Yeah, I'm still here and kicking! I think it's starting to dry out some, which is good! We need some dry.
Thanks, sweetie, for dropping by today!


Hey Janet...
Pretty moving story, for sure. Sad ending, but at least he wasn't alone.
Thanks for stopping by today!


Hey Linda...
To be the last of his people must have been hard. Thank goodness for having a friend!
Thanks for coming over today!

Beth Bailey said...

I do hope your rain has stopped. I don't know if it is because of Harvey, probably to some extent, but our temperatures have been wonderfully low....50's and 60's. So glad you made it through safely. Love you, Bubba.

deborah harvey said...

very interesting.