In August of 1911 a starving native-American man walked out of the Butte County wilderness into Oroville and became an instant journalistic sensation. He was identified by UC anthropologists Alfred Kroeber and T. T. Waterman as the last of a remnant band of Yahi people native to the Deer Creek region. The UC anthropologists immediately went north to Oroville and brought him back to live on the Parnassus campus, giving him the name "Ishi" which meant "man" in the Yahi language. During the next four years, the anthropologists and physicians at UC would learn much from Ishi, as he demonstrated his toolmaking and hunting skills, and spoke his tribal stories and songs. Newspapers frequently referred to Ishi as the "last wild Indian," and the press was full of anecdotes referring to Ishi's reaction to twentieth-century technological wonders like streetcars, theaters, and airplanes. In his writings, Waterman respectfully noted Ishi's "gentlemanliness, which lies outside of all training and is an expression of inward spirit," and the records of the time reveal much mutual respect on the part of Ishi and his scientist-observers. Each weekend, hundreds of visitors flocked to Parnassus to watch Ishi demonstrate arrow-making and other aspects of his tribal culture.
1849: California Gold Rush begins.
Ishi's birth ca 1860.
1865: The massacres of Yahi People begin, 74 killed.
1866: Three Knolls Massacre, 40 killed; Dry Camp Massacre, 33 killed.
1871 Kingsley Cave/Morgan Valley Massacre 30 killed.
1870-1911: Period of Concealment: a remnant band (five to twenty individuals) of Yahi hide in the Mill Creek area.
November 10,1908: Surveying party surprises a band of four; Ishi escapes and hides; out of curiosity the surveyors take tools and artifacts from the camp.
October, 1910: T.T. Waterman leads an expedition into the Mill Creek area to attempt to find the lost band of Indians, finds "incontrovertible evidence of their existence in a wild state." No contact made.IshiAugust 1911: Ishi walks out of Butte County wilderness into Oroville.
September 4, 1911: T.T. Waterman brings Ishi to San Francisco
October 1911: Museum of Anthropology opens at Parnassus; over the next six months, 24,000 people visit the museum and watch Ishi demonstrate arrowmaking and firebuilding.
November 22, 1911: Ishi hospitalized for respiratory infection; all TB diagnostic tests are negative.
December 26, 1911: Ishi hospitalized with bronchopneumonia, photos and casts taken of his feet.
September, 1912: Ishi hospitalized three days for abdominal pain.
Ishi becomes acquainted with UC Surgeon, Dr. Saxton Pope; they begin archery collaboration.
May 1913: Ishi hospitalized two days for back pain.
May 1914: Pope does a complete clinical history of Ishi: "No Premonition of Illness."Ishi with bows and arrows on visit to Tehama countySummer 1914: Ishi, Waterman, Pope and Kroeber Visit and map the Deer Creek area of Tehama county.
December 10, 1914 to Feb. 1, 1915: Ishi hospitalized for 62 days, First Tubercular Diagnosis in early 1915.
Summer 1915: Linguistics work with Edward Sapir; Ishi stays with Watermans at Berkeley for three months and is "carefully looked after."
August 22, 1915: Ishi hospitalized for six weeks, then moved to the Museum of Anthropology.Ishi in Suit and TieAugust 28, 1915: Kroeber informs T.T. Waterman and Gifford of plans for Ishi's convalescence: "We have got to handle the case. The physicians go by the book and rule, and it's up to us to apply our knowledge of the individual and our judgment to their findings and advice. He undoubtedly has had TB since last winter, though for the last 6 months it has been only latent... We must let the doctors get their crack at him, but unless he has really broken I don't think they'll find out much... If he gets back to where he was all spring, I believe the same treatment is the only one--reasonable air, exercise and distraction, with every ready tab on the progress of the disease with scales and thermometer. If ...the disease continues active even though mild, I suggest sending him preferably to our former watchman...himself a lunger of ten years' standing; or if he won't have him, then to the Appersons. Pope has the only right idea, which is to handle him as a person, not as a hospital case....I sail for Europe Tuesday...for about two months then back here. [New York and the Museum of Natural History]
September 30, 1915: Gifford replies, "Ishi has improved slowly, but he is a long way from being on his feet. The doctors feel that he will be better off in our building. ...the doctors say he is not in condition to move to the country..."Ishi spent his last days in his room in the Anthropology Building at Parnassus (center) and commented on the antics of the construction workers building the superstructure of the UC Hospital (girders at right) which was completed soon after Ishi's death. The hospital that Ishi was treated in during his illness was located in the Medical school building to the left of the museum.
March 18, 1916: Ishi is readmitted to UC Hospital.
March 24, 1916: Kroeber writes from New York to Gifford, "I am very sorry. The temperatures made me lose hope some time ago. Please stand by our contingently made outline of action, and insist on it as my personal wish. There is no objection to a cast. I do not however see that an autopsy would lead to anything of consequence. I might be willing to consent if it were to be a strict autopsy in the ordinary sense to determine the cause of death, but as they know that, I suspect that the autopsy would resolve itself into a general dissection. Please shut down on it. As to disposal of the body, I must ask you as my personal representative on the spot in this matter, to yield nothing at all under any circumstances. If there is any talk about the interests of science, say for me that science can go to hell. We propose to stand by our friends. Besides, I cannot believe that any scientific value is materially involved. We have hundreds of Indian skeletons that nobody ever comes near to study. The prime interest in this case would be of a morbid romantic nature. Please acquaint Waterman with my feelings; and convey them also to Pope, toned down in form so as not to offend him, but without concessions. When the time comes, please see that the various people in the hospital are properly thanked. They have been more than white.
You can get an individual plot in any of the public cemeteries. Draw upon any money in our keeping, for this purpose without question or formality, on my responsibility. As to monument and care, we can see later. There is no use declaring an estate unless there is official demand. Whatever balance remains after we get through, I think should be turned over to the hospital for what they have done. All this, however, can be arranged later. Yours, ALK."
March 25, 1916: Ishi Dies at UC Hospital. Autopsy performed by Dr. Jean V. Cooke. Cause of death: Advanced Pulmonary Tuberculosis. Dr. K. F. Meyer of the Hooper Foundation is called in to consult on the route of infection.
(Waterman, Gifford and Pope are presumably present, Brain is removed, weighed, examined macroscopically and preserved).
March 30, 1916: Gifford reports to Kroeber, "Your letter of March 24 with instructions concerning the disposal of Ishi's body and estate was received too late to be of use. In disposing of his body I took the stand which you asked me to take some time ago: namely, that he have a Christian burial like any other friend. The only possible departures from your request lie in the fact that an autopsy was performed and that the brain was preserved. However, the matter, as you well know, was not entirely in my hands, as I am not the acting head of the department. In short, what happened amounts to a compromise between science and sentiment, with myself on the side of sentiment. Everything else was carried out as you would have done it yourself, I firmly believe. The Indian told Pope some time ago that the way to dispose of the dead was to burn them, so we undoubtedly followed his wishes in that matter. In the coffin were placed one of his bows, five pieces of dentalium, a box full of shell bead money which he had saved, a purse full of tobacco, three rings, and some obsidian flakes, all of which we felt sure would be in accord with Ishi's wishes. The remains are to be placed in a niche in the columbarium at Mount Olivet Cemetery. Pope and Waterman decided, and I agreed, that a small black Pueblo jar would be far more appropriate than one of the bronze or onyx urns which the Crematory has on sale. Tomorrow afternoon Pope and I are going down to place the ashes in this jar and put it in the niche purchased. Ishi died leaving $369.52. His estate went into the hands of the Public Administrator. This official, however has certainly been very obliging throughout. He has given us every aid and every advice.