Thoughts of Ishi


The man who would be called Ishi

Ishi's voice credit: and the Hearst Museum


October 18, 2000

Ishi, the last of his tribe


While going through a stack of newspapers today

that had been held for us while we had been away,

I came across this story which is personally

very close to my heart:


Last of the Yahi Indians is finally
 coming home for proper burial

by Michelle Locke


It was a brief story about the man called Ishi,

his life and death and his final return to California.


This latest chapter in the story of Ishi,

touched me nearly as deeply as had the book

and the movie about this remarkable man.


Ishi's voice was recorded on wax cylinders

by Professor Kroeber and can be heard at the

Museum of Natural History in Santa Barbara.

If you are ever near this area, the chance to hear

this recording will make your visit unforgettable.

Even though it is quite old and not modern technology,

Ishi's heart and soul come through loud and clear.


He was to many of us, a last, sad look at the kind

of men who had once inhabited this country freely;

a proud, defiant man whose life was tragically changed

by those who came to steal his land in search of gold.

Ishi with Dr. Kroeber in 1911

When Ishi wandered out of the woods in 1911 in search of food,

he was captured by ones who would take him to Alfred Kroeber,

the Professor of Anthropology at UC Berkeley in California.

This historical meeting and the events that followed,

would change both of their lives forever.


You may learn more about Ishi

at these Berkeley web sites:

Introduction to the man called Ishi

The Yana and the Yahi

Ishi before the Museum

Ishi at the Musuem


A UCSF web site:

Ishi: The Last Yahi


The brief time that these two men spent together,

before Ishi's untimely death, presumably due to

consumption, or as we now know it, tuberculosis,

would leave a legacy for those who would

study California Natives and Anthropology to

study and decipher for many years to come.


Sadly, after his death in 1916, Ishi was subjected to an autopsy,

an act that he reviled due to his spiritual beliefs

and had made quite clear to those around him,

that he never wanted performed on him.

However, in the absence of his friend and mentor,

Professor Kroeber, the hideous autopsy was performed

and Ishi's brain was removed and sent away.


After many years and much searching, Ishi's brain

was recently discovered in a jar in the Smithsonian,

where many other American Native remains are kept as well.

Their defense for this abhorrent, massive bone and

tissue collection, was to assure a representative

warehouse from a wide variety of species of animals?

Human and otherwise?


Now, Ishi's brain has made the long trip back

 to Northern California, where it will be buried in 

a secret place, along with his cremated remains.


At last Ishi has come home and hopefully will be allowed

to walk in peace once again with his family and ancestors,

unmolested by curious outsiders.

The final meaning and full worth of this man's life

and tragic death will be left for the ages to determine.


Peace Ishi


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