Ishi bigraphy, stories - Last of Yahi people

Ishi : biography

- March 25, 1916

Ishi (ca. 1860 – March 25, 1916) was the last member of the Yahi, the last surviving group of the Yana people of the U.S. state of California. Widely acclaimed in his time as the "last wild Indian" in America, Ishi lived most of his life completely outside European American culture. At about 49 years of age, in 1911, he emerged from "the wild" near Oroville, California, leaving his ancestral homeland, present-day Tehama County, near the foothills of Lassen Peak, known to Ishi as Wa ganu p'a.

Ishi means "man" in the Yana language. The anthropologist Alfred Kroeber gave this name to the man because it was rude to ask someone's name in the Yahi culture. When asked his name, he said: "I have none, because there were no people to name me," meaning that no Yahi had ever spoken his name. He was taken in by anthropologists at the University of California, Berkeley, who both studied him and hired him as a research assistant. He lived most of his remaining five years in a university building in San Francisco.

Possibly multi-ethnic

Ishi in 1914 In 1996, M. Steven Shackley of UC Berkeley announced work based on a study of Ishi's arrowheads and those of the northern tribes. He had found that arrowheads made by Ishi were not typical of those recovered from historical Yahi sites. Because Ishi's production was more typical of arrowheads of the Nomlaki or Wintu tribes and markedly dissimilar to those of Yahi, Shackley suggested that Ishi may have been only half Yahi and of mixed ancestry, related to another of the tribes., News, University of Berkeley He based his conclusion on a comparative study of the arrowheads which Ishi made and others held by the museum from the Yahi, Nomlaki and Wintu cultures. Among Ishi's techniques was the use of what is now known in flintknapping circles as an Ishi stick, used to run long pressure flakes. As it was a traditional technique of the Nomlaki and Wintu tribes, the finding suggests Ishi may have learned the skill directly from a male relative from one of those tribes. Also small groups, they lived close to the Yahi lands and were traditional competitors and enemies of the Yahi.

In 1994, Shackley had heard a paper by Jerald Johnson, who noted morphological evidence that Ishi's facial features and height were more typical of the Wintu and Maidu. He theorized that under pressure of diminishing populations, members of groups that were once enemies may have intermarried to survive. To further support this, Johnson presented oral histories from the Wintu and Maidu that told of the tribes' intermarrying with the Yahi. The debate on this has not been definitively settled, however, and the possibility of establishing the circumstances of his birth probably died with him.

Biography

Yahi population

Prior to the California Gold Rush of 1848–1855, the Yahi population numbered approximately 400 in California, but the total Yana people numbered about 3,000., accessed Jan 14, 2011 The gold rush brought tens of thousands of miners and settlers to northern California, putting pressure on native populations. Gold mining damaged water supplies and killed fish; the deer left the area. The settlers brought new diseases such as smallpox and measles."" The northern Yana group became extinct and the central and southern groups and Yahi populations dropped dramatically. Searching for food, they came into conflict with settlers, leading to bounties on the natives by the settlers. Prices included 50 cents per scalp and 5 dollars per head. In 1865, 17 men surrounded and executed 50 Yahi Indians while they slept in bed.

Birth and early life

Ishi is estimated to have been born between 1860 and 1862. In 1865, when he was a young boy, Ishi and his family were attacked in the Three Knolls Massacre, in which 40 of their tribesmen were killed. Approximately 30 Yahi survived to escape, but shortly after cattlemen killed about half of the survivors. The last survivors, including Ishi and his family, went into hiding for the next 40 years, and their tribe was popularly believed to be extinct.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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