Read ISHI In Two Worlds: A Biography of the last Wild Indian in North America by Theodora Kroeber Online


The life story of Ishi, the last Yahi Indian, lone survivor of an exterminated tribe, is unique in the annals of North American anthropology. For more than forty years, Theodora Kroeber's biography has captivated readers. Now recent advances in technology make it possible to return to print the 1976 deluxe edition, filled with plates and historic photographs that enhance IThe life story of Ishi, the last Yahi Indian, lone survivor of an exterminated tribe, is unique in the annals of North American anthropology. For more than forty years, Theodora Kroeber's biography has captivated readers. Now recent advances in technology make it possible to return to print the 1976 deluxe edition, filled with plates and historic photographs that enhance Ishi's story and bring it to life.Ishi stumbled into the twentieth century on the morning of August 29, 1911, when, desperate with hunger and terrified of the white murderers of his family, he was found in the corral of a slaughter house near Oroville, California. Finally identified as a Yahi by an anthropologist, Ishi was brought to San Francisco by Professor T. T. Waterman and lived there the rest of his life under the care and protection of Alfred Kroeber and the staff of the University of California's Museum of Anthropology.Karl Kroeber adds an informative tribute to the text, describing how the book came to be written and how Theodora Kroeber's approach to the project was a product of both her era and her special personal insight and empathy....

Title : ISHI In Two Worlds: A Biography of the last Wild Indian in North America
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ISBN : 9780615403564
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Number of Pages : 272 Pages
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ISHI In Two Worlds: A Biography of the last Wild Indian in North America Reviews

  • Faye
    2019-05-16 22:57

    What an amazing man Ishi was. His entire people, the Yahi of California, were wiped out by white settlers in the late 1800s - for no justifiable reason, I might add - and after years of living in hiding with just 3 or 4 other people, the others' deaths/disappearances had left him all alone. In profound loneliness and despair, he stumbled into white man territory, fully expecting to be killed or worse. Instead he was taken in by kindhearted scholars who showed him respect and love, and who wanted to learn whatever he was willing to teach them about his long-dead people. Ishi showed them the same respect, love, and willingness to learn in return, and his cheerful disposition and childlike wonder at everyday things the white man took for granted inspired a generation. Inspired me, too, 100 years later.That a man could go through so much and not have a trace of anger or distrust in his heart is just about as inspiring as you can get. I'll say it again - what an amazing man! He left a lot of brokenhearted friends behind when he died, much too soon, the last of his kind in more ways than one.His close friend, Dr. Saxton Pope, wrote this when Ishi died - "And so, stoic and unafraid, departed the last wild Indian of America. He closes a chapter in history. He looked upon us as sophisticated children - smart, but not wise. We knew many things, and much that is false. He knew nature, which is always true. His were the qualities of character that last forever. He was kind; he had courage and self-restraint, and though all had been taken from him, there was no bitterness in his heart. His soul was that of a child, his mind that of a philosopher."Not many books can be so tragic and yet so hopeful at the same time. The description in this book of the long-dead Yahi culture is so vivid and beautiful that it really brings it home to you what the world lost because of the recklessness and greed of the gold rush settlers. They wiped out a beautiful cuture that was completely in-tune with nature simply because they'd found lumps of shiny metal in nearby rivers and streams. But Ishi himself didn't get angry about it or demand to be reimbursed for what he'd lost. He accepted that that phase of his journey was over, and he moved on to enjoy the next phase. What a lesson we all can learn from him.

  • Andrea
    2019-05-18 04:00

    Interesting to view this bio through the gauze of 3 periods over the last hundred years – or at least try. Here goes:1915 (Ishi's death): a biography of a non-fighting, non-Chief, non-Plains Indian whose only claim to fame is being the last of his tribe? Maybe some sensationalist magazine articles and a few scholarly anthropological papers, but that's it. 1961 (publication of Theodora Kroeber's “Ishi” bio) : The time is perfect; not only is this bio long overdue, it is also perfectly in tune with the emerging native awareness and ethnic pride movements. A beacon of empathetic integrity in a scholarly package.2013: The book is having trouble getting through contemporary radar screening for political incorrectness and racial/ethnic/cultural condescension, notably in part 2, detailing Ishi's life as assistant janitor and resident anthropological specimen at the museum headed by Professor A.L. Kroeber (1876-1960; the author's late husband and to whom the book is dedicated).So, taking the time frame into mind and without discounting the whole book, I'd say this merits about 3 stars. The first half, detailing the history of the Yahi within the larger context of their Yana appurtenance, is well-documented and sound. Part two, dealing with Ishi's 4 scant years in the civilized world, is (necessarily since she never actually met the man) sketchier; more anecdotal and speculative than biographical. The author fills in the blanks as best she can, attributing thoughts and feelings to Ishi that may or may not make contemporary readers cringe:On his janitorial duties: He was most grateful for the work, having observed that everyone in the white world had a regular job for which they received a regular wage. And he was pleased to have the “mahnee”, which permitted him to pay for his own food and whatever else he wanted, instead of having it given to him. He was a proud person, to whom economic independence meant a great deal. And how about this one:Ishi was not given to volunteering criticism of the white man's ways. But he was observant and analytic, and, when pressed, would pass a judgement somewhat as follows. He approved of the “conveniences” and variety of the white man's world –neither Ishi no an people who have lived a life of hardship or deprivation underrate an amelioration of those severities, or scope for some comforts and even some luxuries? He considered the white man to be fortunate, inventive, and very, very, clever; but child-like and lacking in a desirable reserve, and in a true understanding of Nature – her mystic face; her terrible and her benign power.Hmmm. “something like” is about right. Put the words in his mouth and add a lump of Noble Savage sentiment at the end. Well, this was 1961...

  • Prima Seadiva
    2019-05-06 01:43

    Revisited as an audiobook. Reader ok. 2.5 starsI and a friend read this when it was first published (1961). We were hair hoppin' high school sophomores soon to be rebellious art school hippies. At the time in urban Baltimore, pretty much the only knowledge of Indian culture was as depicted in t.v.,movies and comics. It was quite eye opening to us. The book has not aged all that well. I found the writing a bit ponderous especially the interminable introduction. The point of view, progressive for the timeline of Ishi's life and the time the book was written, is dated. That's perhaps a good thing as it demonstrates that some positive change to our cultural POV. Still worth the read. The author was Ursula LeGuin's mother and perhaps you can see some influence to LeGuin's choice in writing subjects.

  • J
    2019-05-16 19:40

    This biography lumbers along a bit (especially the foreword by the author's son, which I advise you to skip) but the story of Ishi is historically and anthropologically valuable because he had no contact with non-Natives until he was captured late in his life (1911), and was considered the last North American Indian to live free of white men's influence. Taken in by a professor at the University of California, he lived out his life at their Museum of Anthropology. Once he learned a little English, he could enlighten his new friends about his culture. He was quite a sensation at the time and his story is worth knowing.

  • Ilya
    2019-05-01 01:07

    The Yana were an indigenous people of California whose tribal territory was the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada south of today's Redding and north of Yuba City. Before the mid-19th century they numbered 1500 to 3000 people. They had no agriculture; they gathered acorns and manzanita berries, harpooned salmon, hunted deer with bow and arrow, wove baskets from pine roots. Their language may have been an isolate, or a branch of the hypothetical Hokan language family made up of a few small Native American languages mostly from California. Linguists divide it into four dialects, about as far from each other as the Romance languages: northern, central, southern and southernmost; the southernmost dialect is also called Yahi. The word Yana means a person in Yana; Yahi is the southernmost pronunciation of the same word; as far as we can tell, the Yana had no specific word for themselves or their language.Come the California Gold Rush and the stream of American pioneers. Hydraulic mining befouled the rivers and killed the fish. Settler cattle, sheep and pigs ate the acorns that Yana women would otherwise have gathered and ground into meal. The Yana robbed the farms and the ranches and killed the settlers. The settlers struck back, forming posses and killing many more Indians than the Indians had killed whites. One of the Indian fighters published his memoir in 1909, half a century after the fact, where he brags about massacring an unbelievably high number of Indians, as if his posse had AK-47s and not Civil War rifles. The U.S. Army captured other Indians and marched them to a reservation 130 miles distant; of the 461 Indians who left Chico, 277 arrived at the reservation, 2 were unaccounted for, 32 died on the march, and 150 were left sick along the route. By 1872 the genocide was complete, or so it seemed.Yet some Yahi survived, as Kroeber puts it, the smallest free nation in the world, roaming the woods and hiding from the whites. Their numbers gradually dwindled, but they were there. In 1908 two surveyors suddenly stumbled upon an Indian fishing with a harpoon; the next morning surveyors came upon a tiny village; three people ran away, but one immobile old woman lay in a hut. The surveyors took everything in the hut, four people's means of livelihood, as souvenirs. Finally, in 1911 a starving Indian man who was about 50 showed up outside a slaughterhouse in Oroville, a town in the Sacramento Valley. He did not understand English, Spanish or the Native American languages of the valley. He was fed and taken to the town jail while the authorities debated, what to do with him. A linguist from the University of California read about the discovery in the papers and took the train to Oroville, taking word lists of two Yana dialects with him. Although the word lists did not match his native language perfectly, the Indian understood some of the words; he was definitely a Yana, the last of his tribe. Though some elderly speakers of Yana survived into the 1930s, and some people with partial Yana ancestry are alive even today, the man was the last Yana to live as a Yana.The man was taken to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, then in San Francisco (now the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology in Berkeley), the American Indianist curator of which was Alfred Kroeber, the author's husband. He never told his Yahi name; in the white society he went by Ishi, the Yana word for man. Ishi worked at the museum as a janitor, a linguistic and folkloric informant, and a "living exhibit". He recorded Yahi tribal mythology and lore on wax cylinders; he taught the anthropologists how to make arrow points, bows and arrows, make fire with a drill. In 1914 he went back to his native land and showed them how to hunt deer with a deer-head decoy and rabbits by squeaking like a rabbit in distress. In 1916 he died of tuberculosis.I read this book when I was about 19, 23 years ago. Either the next year or the year after that I took a History of California class in college where this book was required reading; we were shown a documentary on Ishi (no film footage of him survives, so it had photographs accompanied by narration). This summer I was motorcycling up California State Route 32, through the former Yana country (the hiding place of Ishi's band was dozens of miles south), and decided to re-read this book and read something newer on Ishi, which was Ishi's Brain by Orin Starn. The newer book corrects the older book's many mistakes, and says that the older book captured the spirit of its time, which is why it was a bestseller. In 1976 Kroeber's daughter Ursula Kroeber Le Guin published the novel The Word for World is Forest, which has Earthlings invade a forest planet and try stripping it of resources. The planet is inhabited by Stone Age humanoids, who rise and slaughter all Earthling women, an imagined genocide Le Guin seems to approve of, unlike the real-life genocide of the Yana, which her mother denounces. When the blockbuster movie "Avatar" came out, many reviewers were struck by its similarity to the obscure science fiction novel. There may not be many descendants of the Yana left, but there are many more whites feeling guilty for their historic ancestors' crimes.

  • David
    2019-05-08 01:49

    Every American should read this in order to have some small grasp on the genocide that happened in California and all over the rest of the country.

  • Paige
    2019-05-09 01:41

    Although after some discussion with a friend, I am finally able to see how this book perpetuates racism. The book unfortunately supports the idea that native cultures and therefore (conveniently for the powers that be) native rights should be contained far away from contemporary concerns in a regrettable past, creating a reservation in time as well as space. It is a sentimental portrayal of a person at a juncture in history when a candid portrayal is saturated with unfortunate Eurocentric biases. As soon as I had the discussion With my friend I found multiple examples of how objectionable and objectivizing many of the writer's statements are. I say that I "finally" am able to see this, because my initial more naive response to the book was that it was a fascinating biography, told affectionately and with an attempt to view the historical context humanely and from several different perspectives. And I might add with a true sense of awe at the mystery that an individual personality always represents. I feel like a kid whose candy has been taken away. I use that comparison advisedly, because I do feel that my sense of deprivation is trivial compared to the issues of racism my friend brought to my attention. I can only hope that through more thought and discussion I can synthesize these conflicting apprehensions.Ursula K. Leguin is the daughter of Theodora Kroeber. Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the way that this writer's style resonates with Ursula LeGuin's speculative fiction writing. LeGuin is a favorite of mine and for that reason alone, I have a favorable bias toward Kroeber. Perhaps the ideas explored in this book are more appropriate to fiction. Some ideas are best considered as thought experiments that don't involve flesh and blood human beings.

  • Amy
    2019-05-21 02:58

    Ishi, the last "wild" Yahi Indian, stumbles into the modern world of post-Gold-Rush California after 12 years of hiding with the remnant of his people. He fully expects to be killed, but he is desperate and tired of running ... alone. Luckily, he's adopted by 2 men who are interested in linguistics, native Americans, and who work for a university museum. Ishi goes to live in the museum and stays there for about 5 years before he dies of tuberculosis. I found the narrative to be extremely interesting as it began by expounding upon the history of the wiping out of the area's "wild" native Americans. I found it quite shocking that most of this started with horrible men who liked to kill the natives for sport and fun. The author cites the writings of these men and their description of their slaughters for sport. Of course, this caused the natives (who had lost family members) to seek revenge on area settlers who sought revenge on the natives who sought revenge on the ... well, you get the picture. Ishi is painted as a kind, observant man with a childlike awe of the new world around him. I wish the videos taken of him had survived, but I feel like I got to know what was possible to know of him through the biographer's writings. One idea that he voiced that will stick with me, though, is that modern man may have much knowledge, but he lacks wisdom. The white man looked at him and saw someone technologically and culturally from the stone age, but he looked at the white man and saw someone technologically and culturally unwise. Definitely an interesting book, well worth the read just for the history and the ideas contained within.

  • David B
    2019-05-07 19:43

    In 1911, Ishi, the last member of the Yahi people, emerged from the mountains, hungry and frightened. Taken into custody, he was passed into the care of anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and passed the rest of his days as peacefully as could probably be expected.Ishi is a cypher at the center of this excellent book. Author Theodora Kroeber presents a fascinating and well-written account of his life at the University of California, as well as a moving reconstruction of his final years with a dwindling band of fellow tribesmen, but she is unable to penetrate his point of view. This observation is not intended as a criticism of her or her book. Ishi was intensely private, and his feelings regarding his white caretakers/captors must have been very complicated. It also seems likely that he may have suffered from something akin to post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, he was raised in a culture with values and assumptions very different from technological society and a magical view of the universe. It may have been impossible to know him. The men who formed the closest bonds with him would have known him best, but their relationships are not available to us. The human mystery known as Ishi is fascinating to contemplate and will no doubt make this a book that rewards further reading.

  • P.J. Sullivan
    2019-05-14 22:05

    Countless native Americans were hounded to death by settlers from back east, in the name of “Manifest Destiny.” This is the story of one who survived—barely. Ishi’s people were all dead, mostly from genocide, when he stumbled into the white man’s world in 1911, fearful and half dead from hunger and exhaustion. He knew no English, only Stone Age survival skills. He was enough of a novelty to find help and acceptance, becoming a kind of resident freak in an anthropology museum in San Francisco. "The Wild Man of Oroville," people called him. Naturally he was perplexed by the strange new world he found himself in, and some people treated him like a child, but you’ve got to admire him. He was a survivor, and his way of life, unlike ours, was sustainable. Did he have more to teach us than we to teach him? A sad tale that all Americans should read, because Ishi’s tragedy was repeated so many times in our history.

  • Roy Hessinger
    2019-04-27 23:56

    Very interesting story I had never heard about before.The good:The last free native American. The many anthropological things that made him and his people unique, in both America and the world. Not the least of which was their language. How he saw our society, one of his friends put it this way after his death "He looked upon us as sophisticated children-smart, but not wise." All fascinating reading.The bad:The author switches between writing his story and the story of his people to writing an academic paper (she was an academic so this may be natural). But the switching back and forth may be troubling to some readers.

  • J M Falciani
    2019-05-20 03:39

    From an anthropological view this is an important document of a culture which would have otherwise been known only through artifacts and for me personally this idea changed the way that I look at artifacts in a museum or read about indigenous cultures in a book. As an American this book touched me because it is quintessentially about us as a country and our story. Ishi represents that change of culture we all made but even more so because he never changed place only cultures. The "old country" is still the same place for him as where he "emigrated" to.

  • Valerie
    2019-05-10 03:41

    As there are many editions of this work, I should start by saying that my copy is of the 9th (1967) printing of the 1st edition (c 1961). This is important, because it helps explain a lot of the terminology which seems offensive to later generations. Thus, for example, the word 'primitive' was still commonly used at the time, based on a then-waning idea that all cultures go through the same stages, and develop in the same ways. 'Primitive' didn't then have a pejorative meaning: it just meant more like the 'first' people, technologies, whatever; in what was believed to be a predictable sequence. The implication is that if the Yahi had been left alone, they would eventually have developed the same sort of cultures, technologies, etc that the 'modern' Californians had at the time of the book's writing. Theodora Kroeber was versed enough in the changing tenets of anthropology to recognize this as a false frame. She undermines the terminology at every turn--but she USES the language of the past, largely (probably) because she didn't have the means to create a new language.It's not an accident that the book is dedicated: "To my husband ALFRED LOUIS KROEBER 1876-1960". Theodora Kroeber got access to the documentation (including photographs and artifacts, but, alas!, missing copies of films taken at the time: several times the book pleads against hope that there might be a surviving copy in somebody's archives somewhere, because the University of California copies decayed before they could be transferred to less volatile media) explicitly BECAUSE she was the wife of A L Kroeber. There had been plans to write up the material into a traditional ethnography--but the people who had known Ishi didn't feel up to it after Ishi's death, and they didn't want to delegate it to strangers: so they left the work to Theodora Kroeber, who, though not technically an anthropologist, was familiar enough with the language and mindset of contemporary ethnology to be able to forge a semi-popular version. She submitted everything she wrote to the primaries (at least, the ones that still survived) for criticism and revision, and received their qualified approval. That is, they accepted that it was probably the best that could be done, given that the main informant was now deceased.Even if he'd survived, I don't know if he would have been comfortable with a female interviewer. The descriptions of his behavior in 'civilized' San Francisco in the period from 1911 to his death in early 1916 indicate that while he would talk politely to women, he never felt comfortable enough with them to discuss frankly quite a few of the questions an ethnographer or biographer would have felt necessary to ask. This may be because of his upbringing (for most of his life the only women he had everyday experience with would have been sexually and probably socially taboo to him). It may have been because of Yahi traditions, which he must have learned in fragmented but still fairly detailed forms (people who had only a few companions would almost certainly have spent a lot of time gossiping and romancing). It's apparent from the fact that the Yahi had a specialized men's vocabulary (since women and children of both sexes would have always been the majority, the ROOT forms would have been the ones used by the women: the truncated forms would have been contractions, developed to mark out speech by men), that men lived most of their lives apart from women and children--when there were enough people to maintain that sort of segregation. Or Ishi's reticence with women might have been at least partly because his life was (as he construed it) doomed to be a life of celibacy: and this would have been extremely difficult for even a self-controlled man like Ishi to sustain if he had everyday contact with women.As with many things about Ishi, it's hard to tell, because we don't have enough information. If Ishi had lived longer, it MIGHT have been possible to obtain a fuller understanding not so much what his own life was like (his own life, as he must have learned very early, was a doomed fragment of what had once been a healthy and (sometimes) even thriving culture), but rather of what he had been taught his ancestors' lives were like.The truth is that Ishi was NEVER 'in two worlds'. If Northern Alta California's native inhabitants had really been in a different world, they wouldn't have ended up inundated and destroyed by people who swarmed to the area, primarily in search of gold. They were living in the SAME world the invaders were living in. They hadn't been truly insulated from the European 'colonizers' since the mid 18th century at the latest. The fact, for example, that even the relatively isolated Yahi had adopted some Spanish loan-words even BEFORE 1849 is a good indication that there was already pressure on peoples even far outside the zone of Spanish/Mexican 'rule' of Alta California.This is one area where a map (or perhaps a series of maps) would be useful. There's very little doubt that refugees from the Spanish takeover would have moved north to escape from the rulers, missionaries, etc. They couldn't move west, because the Spanish tended to move north along the Pacific Coast. Few of them could move east, into the high desert, which was already populated very nearly as much as possible. And to the south were areas ALREADY under the sway of the Spanish. So they would have moved north, spreading disease as they went, and bringing overcrowding, new customs, new languages, etc.It's simply not plausible that the highly sophisticated peoples of Northern Alta California were not extensively (too often, deleteriously) impacted. The legends and family stories of the Yahi were probably replete with reports of the changes. In such situations, it's likely that reactions varied. Some peoples would have absorbed changes rapidly, until within a generation they would have had very little in common with their ancestral ways. Others (including, probably, the Yahi) would have resisted changes as well as they could. Thus although Ishi used some of the artifacts of the outlanders (note, for example, that Ishi's flintknapping tools incorporated metal points. This may have been a modification adopted while he was working in the museum, but it's unlikely that he stuck solely to the older deer antlers even in the 'wild'), he tended to stick with older customary tools as much as possible. In fact, the conservatism may have become even more hidebound than the ways of their ancestors. The Yahi were NOT 'Stone Age' peoples. They were not 'living fossils', somehow miraculously preserved, like an ant in amber. Nor were they time travelers from a time when EVERYBODY was 'Stone Age'. If they had been contacted and interacted with gradually, over centuries, they would likely have adopted some things, adapted others, and rejected others, as they decided on the relative value of continuity and novelty. But it would have been on a case-by-case basis. Because the strangers came rapidly, however, bringing (too often) death and devastation, and because the invaders had the most commerce with the settled agriculturalists (and/or converted people who had been part time horticulturists/pastoralists and part time hunter/gatherers INTO agriculturalists), the culturally cohesive thing to do was to adopt a considerably more extreme conservatism than their ancestors, and reject the new technologies, customs, languages, etc root and branch. There is, unfortunately, no index in this book. There is an annotated bibliography, along with illustrations, etc. But this makes it harder to get to more detailed information which isn't immediately recalled. One would like to know more about customs of adoption among the Yahi, for example. Many Native American tribes, bands, etc had a fairly open system of adoption, whereby captives, refugees, or other incomers could be incorporated into local groups, minimizing disruption. But even if such a system had existed among the Yahi, it's probable that the acceleration of the arrival of strangers (which happened several times) would have overloaded such a system. This did happen in other places.One thing that is practiced too much in this book is the justification of bad behavior. For example, the story of a starving man (who hadn't apparently starved long enough to lose his hunger) who admits to lusting after human flesh to eat is the story of an insane man. However people try to rationalize it, the man is mad: witness the fact that he passes by several perfectly good sources of food to continue to stalk the human he's set his mind on. Other examples abound. The attitude of the prospectors is simply unjustifiable. I don't care HOW hard a time they had getting to Alta California: treating people as irreconcilable enemies, to be shot on sight with no compunction, is unacceptable. And the 'settlers' who abetted this sort of attitude were equally culpable.Nor are revenge killings justifiable. The siege mentality which traditionally isolated groups like the Yahi adopted was a foolish reasoning. Rejecting people as beyond the reach of appeal is suicidal. Attempts to negotiate should have started at ONCE, and the fact that the immediate invaders proved implacable should have resulted in attempts to find people further afield who would ally with the 'natives' (note that the root of this word is, simply, 'born': the people who were born in a place) to rein in the atrocious behavior of the prospectors; and later, the ranchers and farmers. There's no guarantee this would have worked, of course. But the certainty that what WAS tried failed is unavoidable.One cause for miscalculation may have been a simple misunderstanding of relative numbers. The Yana territories (the Yahi were a subgroup of the Yana) were along the Sacramento River (there is at least ONE map). They were, that is, barely far enough north that they were fit for human habitation: with care (anyplace south of San Francisco on the Pacific Coast of North America is not fit for human habitation. There's not enough water until far down into Mexico. This basic fact is too often ignored by planners--but people who had lived in the area for a long time usually knew it, and arranged their customs, technology, etc accordingly).So the Yahi would probably not have had a realistic concept of the numbers of people in the outside world. Ishi's horror at seeing the sheer numbers of San Franciscans at the beach implies that this is true. Granted, Ishi had lived a long time among very few people. But even the more populous Yahi of his grandparents' days probably had little concept of how very MANY people were coming--and how many more might come behind them. If they set their goal at keeping strangers out, by violence if necessary, they had no chance of success. There was a need to negotiate from the start. But it's easy to come to such conclusions in retrospect, and it's likely that, given the attitudes of the time, the negotiations would have failed to do more than buy time; if that.A few minor (and not so minor) points. (1) A L Kroeber is little remembered in these days. He died in 1960, so, outside anthropological circles, his work is little known. The fact, for example, that he was a student of Franz Boas, was something that even I, who have studied anthropology and cataloged anthropology books, had to look up to confirm. Most people, if they've heard of him at all, know of him only that he was Ursula K LeGuin's father. So it would be useful for the bibliography to reference some monographs by him for those who are interested in more background. There are a few articles cited, but I've SEEN monographs by him. I gather he was predominantly a linguistic anthropologist: but he probably wasn't completely specialized; as witness the fact that he and several others took Ishi back to his home territory to witness Ishi's techniques in action. (2) There's evidence that some of Ishi's reticence about discussing certain techniques is gender-bound. If one of the women who had been his companions had survived, she might have been more forthcoming (though probably only to a woman). For example, though Ishi probably knew how to make the wicker stewpots of his people (they were baskets, coated with tar, into which food, water, and hot rocks were put), he doesn't seem to have made many of them. And while he made cord, he seems to have found this simplest of technologies (knot tying is a skilled art. Making cord is so easy that novices can do it within minutes of their first lesson) tedious and unpleasant, although he didn't grudge spending hours knapping flint, obsidian, and other stone for tools. This may be because he considered it 'women's work'. (3) 'Ishi' is not a name. The Yahi considered a name a very private possession, to be shared only with intimate family and friends. It's possible that Ishi did share his given name with his scientific friends: but they would have accepted the name as confidential. The nickname 'Ishi' simply means 'man' in Yahi, and was assigned to him (with his consent) simply to have something to call him by. (4) Ishi was, of course, known to be immunologically naive. He had had very little contact with outsiders until quite late in his life (he was probably over 50 by the time he came to San Francisco, though estimates vary). So one of the things he SHOULD have received as part of routine medical treatment was immunizations. It might not have kept him alive much longer, if he weren't kept in perpetual quarantine (which he would have hated), because what he died of was tuberculosis, which had no vaccine at the time (the first vaccine was licensed in 1990), and not even many successful treatments at the time. But it might've, and it was probably worth the risk--if he agreed. There's some evidence that he wouldn't have agreed, though, since his medical theories didn't really leave much room for immunization. And finally, (5) Theodora Kroeber (the mother of Ursula K LeGuin, by the way) makes no secret of the fact that she never met Ishi. She did read transcripts of interviews with him. She saw photographs, autographs, and (possibly) the lost movies. She read ethnographic notes. She read history books. She listened to Ishi's voice on tape. But she never met him, because she didn't meet A L Kroeber until after Ishi died. So when she theorizes about what he thought about things, it's best to take it with a grain of salt. The best extrapolation in the world won't replace one in-depth interview.

  • Sarah Ravely
    2019-05-11 23:45

    This was fantastically good. Drawing on source material from the late 1800s to 1910s, and written in the late 1950s, it could easily have fallen into the tropes of its day. However, the language used is surprisingly modern in tone (the title being drawn from a source quote), and Ishi is neither glorified nor stigmatized. The author manages to write about him objectively without making him an object of study. I highly recommend it.

  • Melissa
    2019-05-12 02:55

    fascinating story

  • Rachel Jackson
    2019-05-06 02:01

    Ishi in Two Worlds was a lovely book. The story of a man who was forced from his idyllic life in the California wilderness to a museum house is told well by Theodora Kroeber, wife of one of Ishi's only friends, and it captures his story descriptively and quaintly, while still giving information about Ishi's life. I had had this on my reading list for quite a while, and I'm glad I finally read it, although it made me sad in the end, thinking of the historical and cultural context of its contents. Parts of the book definitely still illustrated the archaic views of indigenous peoples of North America, but even when the author said something questionable, she usually would follow up with a comment that that was the prevailing attitude in the country at the time the book was written. So at least she was self-aware of common biases that might encompass her own, and at least comment on them, if not destroy them with additional information about Ishi.Too much of the book was centered more around "Indian" life in general rather than Ishi himself. Kroeber spends the first half of the book providing background of Yana and Yahi culture and California history, which is good to know to a point; it's important to understand the context of the life Ishi lived, but at a certain point it just turned into a history of white people's recollections of the area, nothing substantial about Ishi himself at all. I wanted to know more about Ishi.Then, when Ishi's big debut did come, so much attention was paid to his work at the museum, making arrowheads and other skills with his hands. I was very bored reading that section, since it doesn't really have much to do with Ishi's actual life or experience, since his life in the museum was entirely manufactured by the museum staff. I would much rather have learned about Ishi's mental state, his sense of isolation and loneliness, given this traumatic past and present. That is the interesting part to me. His language, sure, and his attempts to join white culture, yes; but not enough attention was paid to his mental state. That's why the last section of the book about the trip the staff took Ishi toward the end of his life was the most interesting part to me, because he finally got to face the psychological demons that he was forced to deal with since walking into white culture in 1911. I was hoping for more insight on that area, but it never came.Ishi in Two Worlds was interesting, and it did answer some questions I had about Ishi and his adaptation to white life, but it wasn't as detailed as I had hoped. Still, it was a good look into the life of the last Yana man in the United States, to preserve and learn about a culture as much as possible. The writing was very beautiful in some places, and it captured Ishi's personality very well.

  • Douglas Dalrymple
    2019-04-19 23:41

    There’s an old movie called Iceman that monopolized my eleven-year-old imagination for several months in 1984. It concerns the unlikely revivial of a 40,000-year-old man discovered frozen solid in a block of arctic ice. He is kept by scientists in a sort of climate controlled terrarium and befriended by one who attempts to communicate with him and help him in ways that prove to be, in the end, not so very helpful.It was inevitable that I should think of Iceman while reading Ishi in Two Worlds. Kroeber, who was married to one of the men who helped Ishi settle into his new life (actually living in a museum in San Francisco), presents Ishi’s tale as that of a person who walks one day out of the Stone Age into industrial modernity. It’s more complicated than that, of course, and Kroeber does justice to the period, to her sources, and to what is known about the tribe of which Ishi was a part during a transformational and ultimately fatal period in its history. Kroeber’s actual portrait of Ishi himself, however, feels incomplete. To some degree this is unavoidable. Ishi died a mere five years after walking out of the hills, and the language barrier (Ishi was the last known true speaker of his language) was an insurmountable challenge to the achievement of any very deep understanding. Ishi is presented, in ways that will irk some of my more politically correct contemporaries, as a fairly “typical indian” of a certain romanticized variety: stoical, quiet, gentle, humorous, mystical, etc. There was some hesitation on the part of those around Ishi to pry too deeply into the parts of his biography which caused him pain or to ask him questions of a metaphysical or philosophical nature. This is perhaps commendable, but for these and other reasons Kroeber's portrait of Ishi feels oddly incurious.It’s difficult to judge a book like this. As a piece of history it is irreplaceable, beyond any question of aesthetic judgment. As a book, Ishi in Two World reads very like a documentary film, at times moving and interesting and at other times aloof. Kroeber writes well and presents the story in orderly fashion, but she writes with the voice of an academic and her book is, finally, less a biography and more a work of anthropology. Required reading for students of American history, I'd say, but only 3.5 stars.

  • Gale
    2019-04-27 01:02

    TWENTIETH CENTURY TIME TRAVELERThis poignant portrayal of the most dramatic culture clash in American history reads like a literary bio-drama. Theodora Kroeber's exhaustive research and respectful treatment of aboriginal heritage provide accurate details of a successful Indian culture, which so-called Civilization had effaced from the earth by 1911. Starting with the geology and anthropology of the Yana and Yahi tribes (north of San Francisco Bay), she recreates their vanished lifstyle. Part One describes the relatively peaceful existence of local native American tribes who learned to coexist both with Nature and each other. But the advent of the white man destroyed the fragile ecological and social balance which had existed for centuries, as Yankees and Hispanics gradually encroached on Indian territory--scorning their customs as "savage." Ishi's tribe was hated and ultimately hunted into extinction. Himself the last survivor, he staggered into a frontier town, gaunt, ragged and in mourning-- expecting instant death. Having lost touch with the last human beings who understood his pre-Columbian world, he had nothing to live for. Part Two compassionately depicts his amazing metamorphosis from the last wild man to Mr. Ishi. He never revealed his true Indian name to any white man, but accepted the generic word, "Ishi" as his new name which simply means, Man. He emerges as a surprisingly gentle person, who adapted successfully to life in the modern world. Making friends with selected Americans, learning to live and almost thrive in the municipal jungle, he earned respect and admiration for his "primitive" skills. In fact Ishi left indelible memories upon those who were privileged to know him well and enjoy his company. His sentimental jouurney back into his past and former territory was well documented in photographs and (now disintegrated) film. What a privilege it must have been to observe this calm and dignified man demonstrate lost customs and survival skills. From warrior to janitor/custodian this honorable man maintined his human dignity in all aspects of 20th century life, until his untimely death from TB five years later. In fact Ishi-made artifacts are treasured in Bay Area museums. One wonders if we of the modern world could adapt so well or philosophically to conditions so foreign as a trip through generations of Western achievement; how would we cope if we were transported forward in time by several centuries? Ishi adapted with grace and courtesy, inadvertantly causing us to wonder who the real "savages" are/were. But this book is not a racist guilt trip--rather it proves a personal odyssey which can teach and touch us all.(June 6, 2001. I welcome dialogue with teachers.)

  • Guilherme Solari
    2019-04-27 01:54

    A sad testament of the human ability to adapt“I am one; you are others; this is in the inevitable nature of things.”Originally from 1961, this book from anthropologist Theodora Kroeber – mother of science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin – tells the story of California’s last “wild” native: Ishi. He was captured starving and desperate in a ranch not far from San Francisco in the August of 1911. All of his people, the Yahi – that inhabited the region for 3 thousand years – were exterminated in less than 50 by gold rushes, violence and disease.Ishi wandered alone for months before being captures. He stayed under the care of anthropologists of the University of California, where he spent his last years as an informal assistant and a curiosity for visitors. With no immunity for the illnesses common in civilization, he would die four years after being discovered.The first half of the book describes with detail the destruction of Ishi’s tribe and it’s culture based on his account and data the anthropologists pieces together from other sources. Ishi was a survivor from the Three Knolls massacre in 1865, from which only 33 members of his tribe escaped. The remaining members of the tribe hid for 44 years in the mountains avoiding any contact with the white man and died one by one, until only Ishi remained with his sister and his mother.The second part of the book shows Ishi learning about the modern world. Imagine, if you can, the cultural shock of a forty-year old man that lived with a knowledge equivalent of the stone age coming into the 20th century. Ishi is a testament of the human ability to adapt, and faced this new world with ingenuity, wisdom, beauty and humor.“And so, stoic and unafraid, departed the last wild Indian of America. He closes a chapter in history. He looked upon us as sophisticated children—smart, but not wise. We knew many things, and much that is false. He knew nature, which is always true. His were the qualities of character that last forever. He was kind; he had courage and self-restraint, and though all had been taken from him, there was no bitterness in his heart. His soul was that of a child, his mind that of a philosopher.”Ishi wasn’t his real name, it means only “men” in the yana language. For them, it was improper for a person the say their own name, they needed to be introduced by another member of the tribe. But Ishi had no one else to introduce him. His real name was never known.

  • Julianne
    2019-05-07 19:39

    At once fascinating and absolutely heartbreaking (more genocide, anyone?), superbly written with both a scientific and emotional point of view. This was a "textbook" for one of my husband's classes in undergrad and had been sitting on a shelf for years in our study. I finally took it down to read and was thoroughly engrossed. Though it is a bit on the dry side, I confess the last chapter had me boo-hoo-ing.

  • Sara Balmuth
    2019-05-04 21:57

    Ishi was the last of his people--the final Southern Yana still eking out a wild living in the forests of northern California. In 1911, he caused a stir by appearing in Oroville in search of food, speaking a language that no one else knew. Theodora Kroeber, wife of the famous anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, tells his story in rich, clear prose. She does an excellent job of mixing deeper history--the story of the Gold Rush and what it meant for California Indians in general, as well as the specific history of the Yana--with personal stories she heard from her husband and his colleagues about what it was like to live and work with Ishi. The book is a fast, riveting read, and though there are moments when it feels a little dated, I think the average American can still enjoy it and learn from it. The one thing I will say is that Mrs. Kroeber's unique position naturally biases the way she views Ishi's treatment after he wandered into Oroville. According to her, Ishi is happy to live in a museum in Berkeley away from his homeland, do janitorial work for not much money, and become a sort of display for the museum, making stone tools for spectators. It is hard to say how much of this is true, how much of it is Kroeber defending how her husband treated Ishi, and how much of it is simply Alfred Kroeber's account of it, which naturally presents his own actions in a favorable light. It is also possible that Ishi didn't tell Kroeber and his colleagues everything, since there was still a language barrier and Ishi would have been in such a vulnerable position that he may have been reluctant or even afraid to complain. Another problem is that Theodora Kroeber never actually met Ishi. She relies on second-hand accounts. Mostly this works, but when she claims to know how Ishi felt, you have to take it with a grain of salt. You can't know what anyone else is feeling if you don't get to ask them.Still, I like this book and would recommend it.

  • Frank
    2019-05-04 22:42

    Finished reading this one today and must say I really enjoyed it and found it to be very interesting and informative. The story of Ishi, who was the last of the Yahi people in California, was presented in such a way that the reader really became familiar with his culture and way of life. The first half of the book was a history of the Yana/Yahi people in California and was for me a real eye-opener. The California Native Americans were pretty much annihilated by the Caucasian ranchers and farmers who settled in Northern California. The Yahi were basically trying to survive on their homeland but were pursued and slaughtered by the whites. This in reality was a very horrible case of genocide against the native peoples. I did a search on the internet and found that almost all of California's Indians met similar fates. (See this article.) The second half of the story describes what happened to Ishi after he gave himself up in 1911. He was placed in the care of the University of California's school of anthropology and actually spent his last few years in the University museum in San Francisco. There he learned some English, made good friends, taught his native crafts, and earned his living doing janitorial work and assistance. He liked living there and did not want to return to his homeland or be put on a reservation with other tribes he did not know. I would recommend this one to anyone interested in Native American history and culture.I also discovered that the author of this book, Theodora Kroeber, is the mother of the science fiction and fantasy writer, Ursula K. Le Guin.

  • Stan Vukajlovich
    2019-05-02 23:40

    I originally had this listed a having read in 1973. This is a great story of the last wild Indian to enter the modern world of 1910 from the Stone Age, the last living person of his tribe. Fortunately there was a UCB professor Alferd Kroeber, Theodora's husband who did read and approve the book in his last month alive, who could speak a little of his language and took Ishi to live in the University museum. A moving story of a remarkable man adapting to life in the city in modern times. One of the most difficult things for him to adapt to was large numbers of people in one place. It was interesting how he maintained all his cultural taboos such as not telling people your name, Ishi means man in his language and he was happy being called that as in their tribe everyone has some sort of nick name that everyone uses. This is a well written story, history of how his people on western lower Mt Lassen were gradually killed off leaving him as the lone survivor and how he came out as a starving individual who in all probability be killed, moving and adjusting to the city, living in the city and working with the anthropologists. The book does a great job of sharing much of what learned about Ishi. I reread this book as a friend is working part time at Berkeley and there are several items mentioned in the book that can be seen at the UCB Indian Anthropology museum. In fact I will go to that museum later this month as it was the mid '70's when I was last there.

  • David Bonesteel
    2019-05-08 03:55

    In 1911, Ishi, the last member of the Yahi people, emerged from the mountains, hungry and frightened. Taken into custody, he was passed into the care of anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and passed the rest of his days as peacefully as could probably be expected.Ishi is a cypher at the center of this excellent book. Author Theodora Kroeber presents a fascinating and well-written account of his life at the University of California, as well as a moving reconstruction of his final years with a dwindling band of fellow tribesmen, but she is unable to penetrate his point of view. This observation is not intended as a criticism of her or her book. Ishi was intensely private, and his feelings regarding his white caretakers/captors must have been very complicated. It also seems likely that he may have suffered from something akin to post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, he was raised in a culture with values and assumptions very different from technological society and a magical view of the universe. It may have been impossible to know him. The men who formed the closest bonds with him would have known him best, but their relationships are not available to us. The human mystery known as Ishi is fascinating to contemplate and will no doubt make this a book that rewards further reading.

  • J. Keck
    2019-04-30 00:55

    A book I read in one of my anthropology classes. An interesting novel by an anthropologist, who used her husband's notes to write the book, had never met Ishi herself. Ultimately, it is a sad tale of the West and the destruction of the indigenous peoples. Ishi as the remaining survivor of his tribe, hid for years in the wilderness. Forced by starvation, he came into contact with European Americans and was captured in late August, 1911. When I had visited Southern Oregon in 2001, I saw a metal plate affixed to a rock overlooking the ocean. It mentioned on a date in late 1849 the massacre of the indigenous people. Moreover, the few survivors were sent to the desert. It was a moving and disheartening moment for me. Out of it came, a short story/novella, "The Song of the Tree," which I wrote, but never submitted for publication. Oddly, the gist of the story appeared in a 3-D movie some years later after I'd had someone review the story for me. Obviously, I'm more cautious to whom I show my writing now. The really positive experience was that having read this book and seeing a memorial to another indigenous group of people, I wrote something that was cathartic for me. Whether the story gets published remains to be seen. As for Ishi, his legacy and his vanished people remain recorded in this book and others.

  • Colin Andrews
    2019-05-01 19:56

    Originally published some 50 years ago, it is not surprising that this book has sold over a million copies, with a 50th Anniversary edition released last year.In all respects it is an amazing biography of the last of the Yahi Indians of California. It evokes the full range of emotions, from despair at the wanton slaughter of the indigenous people by settlers encroaching on their traditional habitat, to the wonder of his incredible adaptation to early 20th century civilisation. As a result of the survival of Ishi against all the odds we learn much about his people that would have otherwise been lost forever. Some aspects of their traditional skills, customs, high moral code and language were almost unique amongst the North American Indians. For example, a separate dialect and vocabulary for male and female members of the tribe had hitherto only been identified in a very few communities worldwide. Another extraordinary feature of this book is that it was a first for its author, who was in her early sixties at the time of writing. Her husband, who lived to see the completed manuscript but died before publication, was an anthropologist who had befriended Ishi. It was from his records, and that of other colleagues who were instrumental in Ishi's assimilation into the modern world, that Theodora Kroeber produced this highly readable and moving biography.

  • Beth
    2019-05-16 03:07

    Prior to the coming of Europeans, California was populated by slightly over a quarter of a million Native Americans. They belonged to 21 different nations and spoke over 100 distinct languages, no two languages any more similar than French and German. The Spanish began the decimation in the 18th century, bringing disease and Catholicism to the valley and coastal tribes. The American settlers finished the hill tribes off in an even more brutal way, hunting Indians down and taking scalps (something not practiced by the California tribes). A conservative estimate was that “one white person [was] murdered for every thirty to fifty Indians” (and this doesn’t count those killed by hunger, disease, and forced marches). In fact, toward the end of the slaughtered the acknowledged goal was total “extermination.” Ishi, the last of his tribe, survived in the wildness for over fifty years, at first with about five others of his tribe and toward the end alone. In 1911, he walked out of the hills, away from his homeland, and into “civilization” with no hope. Fortunately the Frontier mentality had died down and Alfred Kroeber, a young anthropologist at Berkeley was contacted. Ishi lived the rest of his life (only four years) under Kroeber's care.

  • Robert Gilbert
    2019-04-30 03:03

    This book was hard to read. Maybe because I grew up in that part of California and was familiar with the places where this took place and the stories of the Native tribes who disappeared from there when the white-man came. My grandmother taught us boys to respect the ways of the ancient people. She made sure we knew the story of Ishi--not the gory details that this book goes into, mind you, but enough for us kids to understand what had happened.A few years ago I tried reading the first part to my son, but then stopped at the point where the "exterminations" began. Maybe someday he will read the rest, but for now I will do as my grandmother did and leave it at the basics.An interesting note: for many years there was a short film about Ishi at the Lake Oroville visitor's center in Oroville California (where Ishi first entered the modern world). I don't know if they still show it in their theater, but if you're ever in the area it's worth stopping there just to walk through their exhibit on the Maidu people who inhabited that part of the Sacramento valley and who were the southern neighbors of the Yahi (the ones who gave them the name "wild indians".

  • Derek Davis
    2019-04-23 22:51

    My wife and I read this aloud to each other in the evening. It's a beautifully done, humanistic piece of ethnography.Ishi appeared in a California town one day in 1908, the last member of the Yahi Indian tribe that been hunted and hounded to extinction. Alone, initially terrified, he was taken by Alfred Kroeber and other anthropologists to San Francisco where he spent the rest of his relatively short days living in a museum. Two things stand out in this study put together by Kroeber's wife,Theodora: The almost surreally accepting humanity of Ishi, and the equally accepting, nurturing friendship shown by those who took him in. Ishi did not act like and did not seem to his white friends like a captive, an exhibit or a curiosity. He was a man of wide-ranging talents, wit, and keen observation. His "keepers" were scientists with the best qualities of decency and discernment.On top of that, Theodora Kroeber's own insights and reflections turn would could have been either a dry rendition of a case study or an unabashed paean of adulation into a balanced assessment of a remarkable human being who survived the worst the world could throw at him without bitterness or anger.

  • Vicki
    2019-04-25 02:39

    What a fascinating story of a man whose entire people and way of life was destroyed by white settlers in Northern California. Ishi, the Yahi Indian who stepped out of the "Stone Ages" and into the modern world in 1911 Oroville, CA, came to embrace his new way of life and lived among the white people whom he was at first, deservedly, afraid. This book includes a brief history of his tribe (a language barrier and the fact that he was the only one of his tribe left made it necessarily so), his experience in "the wild" of the encroachment of settlers on his land and people, and what it was like for him to then live in San Francisco. The author includes detailed information about how to make bows, arrowheads, and fire (!) in the Yahi manner. His insights into some of the problems plaguing "civilized" people were far more enlightened than those of the scientific community surrounding him. A must read for everyone.