Ishi, the last Yahi

03 Apr


Ishi, the last of his kind, the last Yahi.
All pictures are public domain


Many years ago, while going through a stack of newspapers that had been held for us while we had been away, I came across this story which was 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.

The movie, The Last of his Tribe, with Graham Greene as Ishi and Jon Voight as Professor Kroeber is quite compelling.

I highly recommend it and all of the books associated with Ishi’s  life.

Be prepared to learn the unpleasant facts about the treatment of our first people in this country.


Ishi, the last Yahi.

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.


Ishi with Dr. Kroeber in 1911


Ishi  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.

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.


Ishi before 1916


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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33 responses to “Ishi, the last Yahi

  1. sachemspeaks

    April 3, 2014 at 4:18 PM

    Reblogged this on sachemspeaks and commented:
    I highly recommend it and all of the books associated with Ishi’s life.
    Me too Aquine

    • Gator Woman

      April 3, 2014 at 4:33 PM

      Thank you for helping others to learn about him~

  2. Bill Hayes

    April 18, 2014 at 8:49 AM

    Fascinating story. Thank you.

    • Gator Woman

      April 18, 2014 at 9:09 AM

      Thank you so much. Hope you can find the movie.
      It is wonderful. Great cast.

  3. Anjali

    July 27, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    I learnt something knew today and it touched my heart. Sometimes it seems to me that in it’s quest of knowledge, science, loses its soul and takes apart and destroys that very thing it seeks to know. Thank you for sharing this Donna.

    • Gator Woman

      July 28, 2014 at 8:47 AM

      Thank you Anjali for your kind words here.
      My hope is that you will find the movie and watch it.
      There is so much more to Ishi’s life than I could ever put in a tiny Blog posting.
      He was a very special soul.
      Have you seen my new Blog yet?
      It is all about Organic Food, hope you like it!

      • Anjali

        July 28, 2014 at 10:42 AM

        I most certainly will try Donna! And just visited your new blog – I could smell the coffee though actually I’m a tea drinker! :))

      • Gator Woman

        July 28, 2014 at 10:45 AM

        Sorry, for that~
        Am a Coffee junkie!
        There are gazillions of Organic Teas, please do suggest your favorites on the Blog!!!!
        Am so glad you are on this Blog.
        I have an idea about England and Organics.
        Think you get better ones there than we do here.

      • Anjali

        July 28, 2014 at 10:49 AM

        Will certainly let you know BUT it’s in India that you get all the Teas that are imported here in London and elsewhere! and no dipping bag stew – the real deal which you brew 😉

      • Gator Woman

        July 28, 2014 at 10:55 AM

        So sad.
        Have no idea about Teas at all.
        Please share this on the Organic page?
        So many will love to hear your expertise on the subject.
        I am well aware that not everybody likes coffee.
        Do they even allow coffee drinkers there~~~~~~

      • Anjali

        July 28, 2014 at 11:05 AM

        Lol! I am not sure I qualify as an expert of any sort Donna – least of all Tea – except by virtue of being born there and belonging to a family of tea drinkers! Don’t know if you are aware but some of the most aromatic coffee grows in the south of India – the kind that doesn’t grow anywhere else in the world and to be honest, once you have drunk the filter coffee from south India (which gets unique fragrance because it also grows in the midst of spice growing land) you don’t like anything else – I guess I am biased ;).

      • Gator Woman

        July 28, 2014 at 11:11 AM

        May I PLEASE have your permission to cut and paste all of your words here about Tea to the new
        TEA page that I am going to go and build right now on the Organic Blog??????
        It will have your thoughts on TEA.
        For some odd reason, maybe it’s because of YOU, I have been getting a lot of new contacts/followers, from London for the past week!
        You may already have a Following~

      • Anjali

        July 28, 2014 at 11:14 AM

        Of course you can copy – paste me! I have just posted a link for you! As for me having followers – how is that possible? I have begun my blog just a few months ago! But whatever it is – I think it’s mutually beneficial and more importantly I’ve acquired a lovely new friend in you! 🙂

      • Gator Woman

        July 28, 2014 at 11:17 AM

        Can you think of any other reason for my new upswell in London readers other that all of the buzz you are creating on your end?
        This is simply wonderful.
        Will be off now to build a Tea page!
        BTW Is any/all of the TEA Organic?

      • Anjali

        July 28, 2014 at 11:20 AM

        And you know – my favourite tea is the one fragrant with cardamom. My mum never throws away the cardomom pods, instead once she has extracted the seeds, she puts the dry pods into the tea-tin, so that it’s always fragrant! And that to me is pure happiness. It brings memories of a fragrant childhood 🙂 And in the monsoons, when we got sick with cold or cough or flu, she would brew hot tea and add freshly grated ginger to it, to soothe the throat, the best remedy ever for sore throats, cold, cough and works for me even today! 🙂

      • Gator Woman

        July 28, 2014 at 11:23 AM

        You are single handedly building this new page for me!!
        What about Organics??

      • Anjali

        July 28, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        There is plenty of organic tea available in India and some of it you can even order on Amazon, I think. To be honest, farming is not as heavily mechanised in India as it is in the west and from what limited knowledge I have, Tea farming is a hugely labour intensive job, a bit like wine, that is not so much dependent on fertilizers but the climate. It needs certain specific terrains and climate, just as wine does. And so it is inherently very organic :). Did you see the link that I sent you? There are many more, I’ll send them to you, as I find them 🙂

      • Gator Woman

        July 28, 2014 at 11:31 AM

        Holy Cow.
        I am writing as fast as I can right now, building your delightful TEA page!
        Yes, got it, love it.
        Many, many thanks it will be a collaborative work of art, I think!

      • Anjali

        July 28, 2014 at 11:40 AM

        Wow! And all this from a conversation – well done to you Donna! Here’s another link for you from the breathtakingly beautiful state of Sikkim in the North-Eastern region of India!

      • Gator Woman

        July 28, 2014 at 11:45 AM

        Got it, put it up.
        Still writing, may do lunch soon, then will finish it.
        Breanna wants her lunch!
        You are an Tea encyclopedia~
        Back in a few!

      • Anjali

        July 28, 2014 at 12:33 PM

        This is so weird! I just blogged hopped – after talking to you – ended up seeing a pic of tea cup – then – blog hopped to another blog and lo behold – there was entire post written as of today on TEA! Synchronicity or what! The blog is called Backyard Philosophy. What a fun day! 🙂

      • Gator Woman

        July 28, 2014 at 1:45 PM

        It is up.
        Please do come tell me what you think?????

      • Anjali

        July 28, 2014 at 1:56 PM

        I have visited and replied! YOu are amazing!

      • Anjali

        July 28, 2014 at 11:43 AM

        This is some more info for you and also has opportunities to volunteer in an organic tea farm! 🙂

  4. Anjali

    July 28, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    Btw do read my new poem and let me know if you like it 🙂

  5. Anjali

    July 28, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    And I write all this – as i sip my cardamom tea! 😉

  6. agwink1942

    September 20, 2014 at 9:48 PM

    What a beautiful story about Ishi. I will be looking for the movie and the books. And I seem to have eves dropped on the above conversation, and loved it all, so I’m going to butt in and try out Anjali’s blog also. I’m also a tea person, not much on coffee, except for cappuccino, which I tend to go a bit overboard on. Thank you for following me.

  7. Gator Woman

    September 21, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Ishi here.
    He has been an important part of my life for over 25 years.
    Perhaps, now the WP Blogging community may know more about him as well.
    Glad you will be enjoying Tea with Anjali!!

  8. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

    September 27, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    I first came to know the story of Ishi from the movie with Graham Greene and Jon Voight many years ago. After that my daughters and I read everything we could get about him. ❤

    • Gator Woman

      September 27, 2014 at 2:19 PM

      You should go to the Museum of Natural History in Santa Barbara, they have his voice on a recording.
      If you read my Ishi page, think it is there~

      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

        September 27, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        I remembered that from the movie; just thinking about it gives me chills. In all the information I’ve read about Ishi and his life was that he did not want an autopsy and in the end they did not heed his request and he was violated once more. I would love to go to the museum but I can’t travel, unfortunately.


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