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Category Archives: Ethnography

Ishi, the last Yahi

ishiwiki

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.

185px-Ishi_1914

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.

kroeber1

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.

ishisit

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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My Most Admired Women~

Clinton_and_Aung_San_Suu_Kyi

Hillary Rodham Clinton with Aung San Suu Kyi
Picture credit:  U.S. State Department

 

They say that today is International Women’s Day.

This makes me just a bit curious, what about all of the other days?

What follows here is a selfish post.

I have always wanted to write about the women that I think have changed the world and influenced me.

So, with the excuse of what has been deemed their “day,”  I shall  begin!

I would like to speak of just a few of the women who have impacted my life and are especially worthy of mention here today.

 

I would of course, begin with my grandmother, who had 18 children and was the matriarch of our huge family and my mother, who raised me as a single mother, long before it was socially acceptable. Between them, these two very different, equally strong women, gave me all that was needed to become the person that I am today.

berthanugentmother

 

Of the women in my past not related to me, that I most admired,  I would like to mention a very special History teacher at Shortridge High School who made the subject come alive, for one who despised the whole idea of it, Mrs. Mary Walker.
She was a tiny, vibrant, African-American woman with beautiful white hair and I loved being in her class.
To this day, I can still hear her saying the word  ” Hapsburg’s.”

marywalker

 

Of all of the world’s current women leaders,  the one that I hold in the highest esteem is  Aung San Suu Kyi   of Burma/Myanmar. What she had done for her people and her country is  simply astounding and remarkable and there are few in the world who could have endured all that she has.

aungsansuukyi

 

Dr. Judith Marti was my first Anthropology Professor at CSUN and  taught mostly Ethnography Classes, which is basically, the study of a people through written observations.  She made a huge impact on all the years that followed in College. My classes with her and the lessons in life that she gave me, changed the way that I looked at  the world. She pushed me to always do better in every paper, every project, I would know little of real Anthropology if it were not for her. (Regretfully no picture)

 

Mrs. O’Brien, the dynamic, demanding,  Irish Charge Nurse at two of the facilities where I worked. She put the fear of God in all who were near, and not meeting her expectations in Nursing and patient care and taught me how to be a better Nurse. She often stood over me as I did treatments and remarked how perfectly they were done. As I told her, I had many times to practice with my son, who had years of skin breakdowns due to his paraplegia. We became very close and I will never forget her passion and her insistence on nothing but the best from all who worked with her. (Regretfully no picture)

 

For our current positive status in women’s liberation and equal rights we all owe much to many women, but for my own generation, my connection has always been to Gloria Steinem.  Those of us who came of age in the ’60’s, especially in Southern California, found their voice,  through hers. We were able to fight for our rights,  when no one wanted to give them to us and what she did made me a stronger woman. Regrettably, we are still waiting in this backwards thinking state of Florida for the ERA to be passed!

GloriaSteinem1972

 

In American politics, my choice must certainly be  Hillary Clinton  for being one of the most intelligent, powerful, accomplished women of my time. She is the closest we have come so far in putting a woman in the White House. For that I will forever thank her. Hillary has worked hard all of her life to make the world a better place for all of us.

HillaryClinton

 

 

 

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The Leakey Legacy

MaryLeakey

The Leakey’s on a dig: Mary, Richard, Louis and  ” the Boys ”
Picture credit: Unknown,  although M.D. Leakey would be Mary

 

There were several new discoveries in the news today that had me salivating as I read them.

Well actually, more like lusting, as my College studies were in Anthropology/Ethnography, not Archaeology, but none the less, this is pretty mouth-watering breaking news for all Anthropologists and those interested in the Ancient Origins and History of Humans.

The links to the stories are below, in the meantime, here is a tiny personal tidbit.

Although Ethnography was my chosen sector of Anthropology to study, my interest had always been in the findings of the entire Leakey family and the great Rift Valley of East Africa, including Olduvai Gorge, or as one of my favorite Professors  always referred to it,   ” the elevator down into our past. “

While Louis, the son of Kenyan Missionaries among the Kikuyu people, was the one always in the spotlight, his wife Mary and son Richard were both quite well-respected and had earned the right to also be admired for their work.

Mary was most celebrated of course, for her discoveries of the Laetoli footprints  in Tanzania in 1978 and Richard had his own numerous notable finds.

In the Literary world, between the two of them, they penned quite a few excellent books, of course I have read them all and they now sit on a book-case next to me when I write.

A one of a kind photo taken of Louis while he was on a dig in Calico, California, many years ago,  looks down at me as I eat everyday, it  was a kindly, generous gift from the woman who led the site tour and asked me to follow her to her office afterwards. I had been more than a little chatty during the tour,  sharing my knowledge of the Leakey’s and I was sure she was going to chastise me for doing this. Not so, as it turned out, surprisingly, she took an envelope out of her drawer, smiling as she handed it to me saying,  ”  I cannot think of anyone who would treasure this more than you ” and gave me the soon to be life long treasure. On this point,  she was absolutely correct.

While my studies in Ethnography kept me quite busy all through my College studies,  Archaeology,  especially Paleontology,  the Leakey’s  and  Olduvai Gorge were always right there in the back of my mind. I spent countless hours and dollars finding books about any and all of it.

I was never really sure what  the most interesting thing about them was, their astonishing finds, their brilliant children, or their wonderful Dalmatians, ” the boys ” as Mary called them, who accompanied the family on many of their digs.

If I had to choose my favorite of all of my Anthropology classes,  it was most certainly Human Paleontology. I will never forget the terrifying Final Exam, which was a room filled with shelves and the nearly 100 skulls waiting to be identified sitting on them.

Shockingly,  I did pretty well on this Final Exam, (which was a Master’s level class not required for my Degree.)

Was it due perhaps,  to my obsessive reading and studying anything and everything about the Leakey’s? Probably~

Anyway,  now back to today’s exciting, well at least to some of us,  Ancient discoveries.

 

The stories are below, if this subject sounds of interest to you, do take a look:

The Epic Journey of our Species

Treasure trove of ‘absolutely wonderful,’ never-before-seen fossils uncovered in B.C.

 

 

 

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