MARCH 25, 1916


Ishi was not the real name of the man who emerged from the woods of Oroville in 1911.  In Yahi, it meant simply “man.”  In Yahi custom, one may not speak his own name in an introduction until another person has done so first.  When Ishi was born, between 1860 and 1862, the Yahi population of 400 was already in decline.  They were some of the first tribes affected by the influx of settlers with the California Gold Rush.  While the settlers brought diseases and competition for the salmon in the streams, Indian hunter Robert Anderson led raids over the next few years that killed almost all of the Yahi.  Ishi’s family escaped, built a small village and kept to themselves.  Eventually, all died or left, but Ishi.  Starvation drove him into the modern world and the Oroville jail until two professors brought him to the University of California, Berkeley.  Ishi, in time, told them his story and, over his last five years of life, reconstructed Yahi culture and language for them.  In 1916, he contracted tuberculosis and died not long after.  

Source:  “The Story of Ishi, The ‘Last’ Native American, All That’s Interesting, 2/10/2013.  Retrieved 1/19/2020,
Photo:  Saxton T. Pope, 1914. Public Domain.

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