Ishi in Two Worlds

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Ishi, the subject of Ishi in Two Worlds

Ishi in Two Worlds is a biography of Ishi, the last known member of the Yahi Native American people. Theodora Kroeber wrote the book. It was published in 1961. It was translated into nine languages.

Ishi had been found alone and starving outside Oroville, California in 1911. The anthropologists Alfred Louis Kroeber and Thomas Waterman took him to the Museum of Anthropology in San Francisco. There, he was studied by the anthropologists, before his death in 1916. Theodora Kroeber married Alfred Kroeber in 1926. Though she had never met Ishi, she decided to write a biography of him.

1911 photograph of Alfred Kroeber and Ishi

Summary[change | change source]

The book has two parts. The first part is called "Ishi the Yahi". It tells about the history and the culture of the Yahi people. The second part is called "Mister Ishi". It tells about his life at the museum. [1]

The first part begins with the history of California before European colonization. [2] Kroeber writes that though there were few Yahi, they once occupied a large part of the Sacramento Valley. Other, more numerous, Native American peoples probably pushed the Yahi into the mountains.[2] The first part also describes the Yahi language and the landscape where they lived near Mount Lassen.[3]

Several chapters in the first section are about the destruction of the Yahi by white settlers.[4] The second part of the book begins with a history of the museum in San Francisco where Ishi was taken. It also tells how he got the name Ishi.[5] At the museum, Alfred Kroeber and others arranged for weekly public demonstrations. Ishi would usually demonstrate stringing a bow, or making fire with a fire drill.[6] Finally Ishi's friends had to arrange for Ishi to work as a janitor, so the University would pay to support him.[7] In addition to Kroeber, Waterman and Pope, Ishi became friends with other Native American friends of the anthropologists, such as Juan Dolores, a Tohono O'odham Indian.[8] Ishi spent much of his time at the museum making tools and weapons. He also went hunting with his friends.[9] The last chapter of the book tells of Ishi becoming sick with tuberculosis in late 1914, and his death from the disease soon afterwards.[10]

References[change | change source]

  1. Kroeber 1961, pp. 3–10.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kroeber 1961, pp. 13–18.
  3. Kroeber 1961, pp. 24–33.
  4. Fleras, Augie (2006). "Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America". Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 27 (3): 265–268. doi:10.1080/01434630608668780. 
  5. Kroeber 1961, pp. 120–126.
  6. Kroeber 1961, pp. 136–140.
  7. Kroeber 1961, pp. 140–146.
  8. Kroeber 1961, pp. 155–160.
  9. Kroeber 1961, pp. 179–185.
  10. Kroeber 1961, pp. 231–240.