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Ishi and California Indians - please comment below

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 6 months ago


Film Review: Ishi – the Last Yahi
Film Info
60 minutes

In 1911, an Indian wandered out of the hills of Northern California, unable to speak a word of English, and clad in the ancient manner. His discoverers, who found him hiding in a barn, didn't know what to make of him and sent him to San Francisco to be studied like some rare animal by the young anthropologist Alfred Kroeber. It turned out that he was Ishi, the last surviving member of his Yahi tribe. He was such an unusual figure in San Francisco that he became quite a celebrity. This documentary includes rare film footage of this unique survivor, along with photographs and journal and newspaper coverage from the time in an attempt to tell his story.
Following the film, we will have a discussion on the following topics:
The relations between Whites and the Yahi
The relationship between Kroeber and Ishi
Adaptation of Ishi before his discovery
Ishi and his family – a human history
Adaptation of Ishi after his discovery and movement to San Francisco
Ishi and friends – their relationships

[Dave Roberts, dlr4@geneseo.edu, 9-13-07]
Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"
1.) Ishi's willingness, even eagerness, to help the whites through his cooperation with interviews, doing demos at the museum, and going back out into Yahi territory, among other things, was astonishing. After the genocide of one's people, the ability to let go of hatred and bigotry is remarkable. It speaks volumes of the values of Yahi culture.
2.) It was disturbing that the whites could only find reverence and respect for the Native Americans after they had slaughtered them all. After having been murdered at the hands of the whites, they became not an inhuman nuisance but tragic martyrs for the manifestation of "America."
3.) The media's handling of Ishi was interesting. Every little action of this "uncivilized" man was worthy of attention, even sensationalism. I was particularly amused by the headline reading (roughly) "Wild Man Tells Story for 6 Hours!"
[Elen De Oliveira, emd10@geneseo.edu, 9/13]
Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"
1. I found it kind of ironic that the "white" people considered the indians to be savages, uncivilized, and less than human, when in reality, they were the ones who were responsible for cruely killing men, women, and children for no real reason at all. When watching the parts which showed pictures and described how the rachers would sell the indian heads and scalps for a price, it seemed as if it were the ranchers, not the indians, who were uncivilized and inhumane.
2. I found the sincerity of the friendship Ishi had with Kroeber to be questionable at times during the film. Especially when he was put on display in the museum and used as a form of entertainment. It seemed as if Kroeber was more interested in the attention and the knowledge that Ishi could bring him, than in truly being a friend to this man who had no one.
3. I came away from the film with a lot of respect for the yahi culture and for Ishi's strength and character. It was really impressive to me that he harbored no hatred or bitterness towards the race that was responsible for killing his entire family and people. These men were responsible for his whole way of life changing and had forced him to remain in hiding for 40 years on his own land. For him to still be able to respect their culture and befriend them was very admirable.
Charlie Genao cg7@geneseo.edu 9/15
Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"


1. I feel bad on how they treated Ishi like he was some kind of animal when they put him in the museum for people to see, I also was amazed on the demand for Ishi to be placed in the museum by the public. It  was really ignorant. When Ishi was transformed to look more European women were offering themselves to be his wife. Their is not much information on his culture since they killed most of his family and tribe.

2. I questioned the white man intentions and friendship that the film supposely said he felt. I think the anthropologist at first cared about what information he can get out of Ishi and as time went on he befriended Ishi. I thought it was sad that when Ishi died he said that he didnt want his organs to be taken out but the doctors did it anyway and I must say that the anthropogist did everything he could to prevent that when he wrote the letter to them but it didnt make it in time.

3. I also feel bad that they forced Ishi to revisted his home village where his people were killed but I also sometimes think It was the only way to get the knowlegdge we know today. I was amazed on how Ishi"s eagerness to help the whites in thier search, but when it came to going back to were his village It showed how strong he was because he went anyway.




[Jennifer Ritzenthaler, jkr5@geneseo.edu, 9/16]


Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"


1. I found it odd that as an anthropologist, Kroeber did not seem to put himself in the place of Ishi. He didn’t consider that Ishi might not want to be a part of another tribe or that he might not want to go back to the place where his family died.


2. It was interesting how Kroeber seemed to grow so attached to Ishi, yet left him to go on vacation as soon as Sapir Whorf came to go over the Yana language with him.


3. I wonder what kind of laws were in place that Kroeber had to buy the Yahi goods that had been taken by the surveyors, for his museum.





[Lanh Nguyen, ltn2@geneseo.edu, 9/17]


Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"


1. Like Elen said, how were the whites viewing the Yahi Indians as uncivilized savages when in actuality the white men were doing the uncivilized and savage acts of capturing Yahis and beheading them, killing children and women alike, and ultimately not caring about their immediate and long term impacts on this culture. IRONIC HUH?


2. Those headlines in the paper showed gradual acceptance by the whites as Ishi became assimilated with their culture. They started off with “Savage” “Caveman”, and shifted to “Primordial Man” and “Poor, Simple Wildman.” Some of the other headlines were so angering and so ethnocentrically written that I found myself looking at them twice to see if they were actually printed.


3. It was ridiculous to hear Krobber say that he gave Ishi the option to go back to where he came from. He was trapped—either goes back to his reservation that is currently occupied by white men and no family members are still alive; or stay in the museum with Krobber where there was shelter from the outside harms. GREAT OPTIONS HUH?





[Heather Warren, hrw1@geneseo.edu, 9/17]


Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"


1. I thought that the beginning movie followed the book we were reading rather closely which I did not really expect. I felt almost like someone started reading the book to me.


2. I thought that it was interesting that the ethnographers counted Ishi as a friend when they undoubtedly treated him more like a beloved, money-making pet. Time after time they caved to public pressure and put Ishi on display like some curious oddity rather than a person, even when Ishi got sick.


3. I like how, rather than describing and portraying Ishi as this poor helpless wretch, the movie portrayed him as a resourceful, intelligent, adaptive, and strong person, always considerate of his fellows. -END-




[Rebecca Coons, rsc2@geneseo.edu, 9/17]


Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"


1 - I agree with Heather that it was surprisingly similar to the book, which in almost any types of film is impossible to do.

2 - I felt that Ishi was something of a side-show to a lot of the people in the museum, even though they did consider him to be their friend. It seemed to me that Krobber wasn't much more than a glorified baby-sitter for Ishi, even though he was obviously able to take care of himself and showed great aptitude for the culture.

3 - I was also amazed at how much the language barrier strained their interactions with Ishi. Even when traveling abroad there are bilingual dictionaries and cross-cultural gestures that can be understood to aid with communication but with Ishi there was nothing like that and it must have been extremely difficult and frustrating for everyone involved to try to communicate with each other. -END-





[Cameron Mack, cfm6@geneseo.edu, 9/17]


Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"


1. Obviously, many aspects of this film were surprising to me. So much was done to and with Ishi that I was not yet aware of, making the film extraordinary to watch. An interesting part of the film, to me, was seeing the similarities between Kroeber and Flaherty. They both wished to capture a dying culture in its true form. Flaherty did this by manufacturing scenes with Inuit people, while Kroeber found himself the last wild Indian.


2. It seemed unfortunate to me that Ishi was made a "show" of, being the last member of a dying culture (or dead culture). At the same time, the only options that he was really faced with were either perishing in the wild by himself or fusing himself with the American culture. I would not think that he would be so enthusiastic about abandoning his beliefs taught to him as warly as childhood.


3. I can't even imagine the feeling that Ishi had when he realized that he was the very last of his kind; the only remaining wild Native American. The manner in which he accepted a new and most likely frightening culture is something that I can admire very much. I'm sure he realized that, at that point, it was his last chance at survival. It was not an ideal situation, however, Ishi seemed to make the most out of it and prospered in a new world.





[Isobel Connors, icc2@geneseo.edu, 9/18]


Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"


1. I agree with Heather in that the film seemed to be an adaptation of Part Two of Ishi: In Two Worlds. Both focused on similar concepts; for example, Ishi’s fascination with large crowds and the proposition that he be put in a glass box for display. The film and book differ, however, in their presentation of such events. The film focuses mainly on Ishi and the extent to which the “white man” destroyed his culture, while the book presents a historical background before giving an account of Ishi’s life in San Francisco.


2. I found it interesting to see how anthropologists functioned in the early 20th century. Instead of concentrating on the preservation of a culture, anthropologists seemed enamored by the disappearance of culture. They did not concern themselves with the evolution of a culture, but merely viewed culture as a primordial, irretrievable way of life that could only survive in ethnographies.


3. I was disturbed to see how Ishi was treated by his so-called friend, Kroeber. The book misrepresents much of Ishi’s experiences in San Francisco, often diluting depictions of the relationship between Ishi and Kroeber. What particularly struck me was the scene when Kroeber and Ishi return to his homeland and Ishi is forced to watch his companion barter with the men who murdered his tribe. Though Ishi is abused in many respects, he never once complains or disrespects those around him.






[Alfred Dilluvio, ajd12@geneseo.edu, 9/18]


Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"


1. This film is just another example of how Anthropology has a dark history. The desire of Kroeber to work Ishi very hard and to place him in viewing stations is just another example of the numerous atrocities committed by those in the name of science. It reminds me of the atrocities Boas committed with his Eskimos during the "skull wars" of the early 1900s.


2. I think it is very interesting that Kroeber never spoke of Ishi again. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that he was extremely guilty and even saddened by the loss of his 'friend'. I am often upset when people talk about kroeber in a negative way. It is easy to say that he was a bad man and that he did things wrong. He did! But we cannot believe he had the benefit of hindsight. We are looking at his behavior through a modern lens. We have to avoid judging past actions by current standards!


3. We need to dismiss the notion that culture can be lost. Culture is not lost, it evolves. Anthropologists have to dismiss that idea and then they won't be so gung ho on preservation of what is deemed primitive.






[Jonathon Baker, jlb22@geneseo.edu, 9/17]

Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"


1) I thought it was very interesting that Kroeber did so much work with

Ishi yet after Ishi's death it seemed like he did little to analyze the

data. Was it that he felt too guilty about the spectacle that he had made

of Ishi? I feel like his feelings on Ishi changed from a "specimen" to a

friend by the end of the time they spent together.

2) I thought it was absolutely absurd that Ishi was forced to perform even

when he was ill. You would think that Kroeber and co. would have placed

the information they could gather from him above the public performances

that he did. I mean the shorter amount of time he was alive in San

Francisco means that they would be able to collect less information from

him and decipher less of his language. Instead of resting and being

cared for, he was placed in front of the crowds in a cage....ridiculous.

3) I feel like the whites who came to look upon Ishi as a friend should

have used their experience to help other whites understand Native

Americans and stop some of the bloodshed. Ishi adapted extremely well to

his new environment and was obviously very intelligent, not to mention

gentlemanly and kind. He was living proof that American Indians were not

bloodthirsty heathen savage stereotype that simply stood in the way of

manifest destiny.







[Steph Aquilina sma8@geneseo.edu 9/19]


Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"


1. I found it interesting how the film incorporated the Yahi myths as a way of portraying how their culture interpreted life. When prompted to explain his family’s history and experiences, Ishi began with the creation of the world, proceeded to introduce his tribe’s existence, and then ended with his birth. Also, his transition from the old world to the new on the train ride to San Francisco paralleled the explanation of the Yahi journey of the dead tale (traveling south, going into the ground, and into the wind).

2. Ishi’s interactions with the general public were very interesting. His attendance at the performance house appeared to fill him with great curiosity, not fear – brimming with people, Ishi could not take his eyes off of the audience’s sheer magnitude. When first presented at the museum, he was an entertainment figure, making souvenir arrowheads for visitors (perhaps as if this was the job he was assigned in his new world). He would even visit area hospitals to sing healing songs to suffering patients – his ability to adapt and his innate consideration were clearly evident.

3. The way Kroeber essentially forced Ishi to return to his homeland for scholarly purposes seemed to stain the sincerity of their alleged friendship. Facing the location of such tragic, personal massacres would undoubtedly be stressful on Ishi, who preferred to remain in his new world. He finally agreed to go back in order to satisfy their pleas; movingly, Ishi was able to reconnect spiritually with his “lost” family, reporting that they had found their way – finally, he could move forward with a lighter soul. END





[Kaitlyn Northrop, krn3@geneseo.edu, 9/18]


Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"



1.)   I thought it was very interesting to see how Ishi responded to the anthropologists and how he gained trust in them very easily. He had many opportunities to leave and go back to his native land, but he chose to stay at the museum with his new friends.

2.)   I thought it was very moving to see how the anthropologists responded to Ishi. After his death they were hurt very badly and upset by the entire thing, enough so that some of them never even spoke about Ishi again. This also makes me feel like they are a bit hypocritical because while Ishi was alive, they took advantage of him, working him to death to study him.

3.)   One thing that made me upset about this film was when they were talking about the Indian Hunters. It upset me that they were paid for heads and scalps of Indians and that in a very short period of time the government paid out more than a million dollars. It amazes me how many Indians must have been killed to add up to this amount of money.



[Skye Naslund, sjn1@geneseo.edu 9-20-07]
Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"
1-The film was filled with insights into the hypocrisy of the "white man."  I thought it was fascinating and disgusting at the same time that the "white man" come in and hunt the deer, killing off the main food source of the natives.  Then when the natives are starving, and steal a cow from a farm, they are massacred by "indian hunters."

2-Another ironic point is that the "indian hunters" who attacked Ishi's camp and stole their winter robes, ended up selling them to the anthropologists for the museum.  It was because of the demand for native artifacts by the anthropologists that the "indian hunters" stole the natives chance of surviving the winter.  So, ultimately it is because of the anthropologists that the native culture they were trying to preserve was lost. 

3-Another point that was interesting was the change in the role of anthropology between then and now.  Then the focus of anthropology was on the disappearance of cultures; anthropologists tried to understand dying cultures.  Now the focus is on the preservation of cultures; anthropologists try to save the culture not just understand them. 



[Lok Yung Yam, ly5@geneseo.edu 9-20-07]
Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"
1. Kroeber came off as a jerk to me because he left Ishi immediately after the linguist came. Ishi was less of a friend to him and more of an experiment.
2. I found it really interesting that the first thing Ishi noticed about the city was the number of people rather than the technology. I guess his culture made him value different things.
3. I thought that Ishi learning to communicate with people who did not speak his language was amazing. I probably would have run away after a couple of days.
[Dan Lilly, djl5@geneseo.edu, 9/21]
Film: Ishi The Last Yahi
One thing I thought was odd in the film was that they mentioned that Kroeber did not want an autopsy performed because, according to Ishi's culture, the body is supposed to remain whole. This made it pretty unnerving, then, when they said Ishi was cremated, because the film said nothing about Ishi telling Saxton Pope that the burning of a body was a common practice in his culture.
[Justin Wilmott, jmw23@geneseo.edu, 2/21]
Ishi – the Last Yahi


First off I want to say how incredible it was to see Ishi so involved in a new culture after not only loosing all his family, but his people and essentially his entire life.  With no home, people or even person who shared his native tongue, I find it astonishing and beyond comprehension that Ishi not only decided to immerse himself in a new culture, but survived as well as he did.  Furthermore, I believe that the film shows the greatest and darkest sides of mankind, the brightest in Ishi and the darkest in the people that destroyed his culture.  Moreover I found it interesting that Ishi was more intrigued not by technology, but by the amount of people that San Francisco held.  It seems like an odd thing to focus so much on. 




[Nicole Rothman, ngr1@geneseo.edu, 9/21]

Ishi the Last Yahi

1.    Ishi was just as interested in the anthropologists and western culture as they were in him and his culture. He was also very willing to participate in the research and share his culture. But, I can’t believe that Ishi lived in the museum, not only that, but he was “put on display” for the public. Talk about living history!

2.    Ishi was fascinated with the crowds of people. It’s hard to imagine what he could’ve been thinking. All of his relatives died, he was the only one left from his tribe, he wonders off to die and all the sudden he’s in this city with thousands of people- It must have been extremely shocking.

3.    It was interesting to hear about the friendships formed between Ishi and the anthropologists. It would seem like if they truly were friends that they would have treated Ishi more as an equal than an animal.




[Larkin Kimmerer, llk5@geneseo.edu, 9/22]

Ishi the Last Yahi

I loved this movie. It really revealed a lot about Ishi himself, but also about early anthropology and the way that Native Americans were treated. Ishi was treated as a museum exhibit, living alongside the artifacts that had been stolen from his tribe...which I guess was the norm back then, but they dressed him up like a "real Indian!" and paraded his "uncivilized" culture for the whites, even going so far as to try to induct him into the Blackfeet tribe. That was amazing, I couldn't believe it. I thought it was funny that the anthropologists were amazed by Ishi's knowledge of 200+ place names, plants, etc., because that is common knowledge for traditional native peoples, even today. I loved that he sang healing songs to people in the hospital; alongside modern medicine he still tried to help people the way that he knew how. Finally, the fact that they did an autopsy and buried him in a local cemetery with no burial rites is awful to me, though not surprising. This movie was a phenomenal look into not only native Yahi culture, but into white culture and white treatment of natives for a very long time...one of the darkest parts of our history, in my humble opinion.



Brendan Ryan, bmr4@geneseo.edu, 9/23]


Ishi the Last Yahi


As I was watching this, I couldn't help but think about what Ishi really thought about what was going on around him.  Did the happy face he put on for the public really reflect his true state of mind?  As a student of anthropology and a white man, watching films like this and Blackrobe makes me ashamed of our rich cultural tradition of exploiting and exterminating the culture, resources and lives of people who have been deemed to be different than us.  It's painful to watch but at the same time it's a helpful tool to keep one grounded and committed to making sure that we learn from our mistakes and don't allow things like this to happen again. 




[Dilek Canakci, dc11@geneseo.edu, 9/24]

Film Review: “Ishi the Last Yahi”


I thought it was so touching how forgiveness is represented in this film and how letting go of the past to work on the future could change so many lives by just seeing this film.  It was definitely enlightening.  It was also very sad to see how the whites treated the Indians and how they looked down upon such amazing people.  Even though Ishi taught a lot about his culture and past in this film, I thought he deserved to be treated better than how Kroeber treated him.



[Laurie Sadofsky, las22@geneseo.edu, 9/25]

Film Review: Ishi in Two Worlds

1. It is disgusting, yet not surprising the lack of respect given to Ishi, considering the destruction of his culture is the fault of the American government, the explorers and the “Indian hunters.” The newspapers called him the last “wild” or “uncivilized” man. Comparing the reactions of Americans to Ishi and his reactions to them, and the former actions of Americans and Native American groups, who really were the uncivilized ones?

2. Ishi must have been very happy to finally have someone speak a language similar to his own in order to have the opportunity to talk about his people, family, traditions and life story.  Humans are social beings who like to hear and tell stories and it must have been great for him to share his experiences to someone who actually understood him.  However, in the end it is possible the pressure and stress put on him from working with Saphir was part of the reason he became sick and died. 

3. At the end of the film, Kroeber recognized Ishi as more than a research subject, he saw him as a friend. Out of respect for Ishi and his religious beliefs, he said “to hell with science” in order to stop scientists from giving him an autopsy and cremating his body. 




[Dan McConvey, dpm5@geneseo.edu, 10/7]


Film Review: "Ishi: The Last Yahi"


1. I think that it is very admirable that Ishi is so receptive to the people who murdered and destroyed his people and everything that he has ever known.  He enters the white man’s world with respect after living among his people who had hidden from the white man’s world for 40 years.

2. Ishi had to float down a river with his mother alongside dead bodies to escape the white men.  This fact was mentioned but not really focused on.  Ishi experienced definite hardships in his childhood and growing up.  It is interesting and unfortunate that most of these feelings were held captive in his mind due to the language barrier that kept Ishi from being able to truly express himself.

3.  The fact Ishi is so impressed by large amounts of people.  He has only known the people who directly surrounded him while growing up so the idea of thousands of people existing let alone in one place is an entirely new concept.  People encounter feelings like this in our culture when they go from a small town to a big city and are simply in awe of the size of the buildings and the amount of people.  It was a very genuine real feeling that Ishi was expressing in his fascination with crowds.





[Shamiran Warda sw11@geneseo.edu 10/07]


Film Review: "Ishi the Last Yahi"
1.       This film at numerous times was very disturbing to watch. One could only feel sorrow for Ishi, who apparently lost everything he lived for in unimaginable ways. It is sickening to know how far some of the white man went to prove he was the better race. Wiping a whole tribe of Native Americans is not something one should take pride in but something we should all learn from. 
2.       I found it ironic how at the beginning where there was a large population of Native Americans, the white people would label them as savages but once the population started to diminish, the image for the Native Americans shifted to a more pity and weak image of them.
3.       Overall, I felt so sorry for Ishi. No one can ever relate to what he had to go through. He lost his family, his belongings, and his way of life due to the white mans beliefs. It makes one’s heart ache to know that we, humans, are capable of wiping an entire race off. In my views, I felt ishi was portrayed more like an animal in a cage; displayed for all to see. However, I am thankful that we do have some records of him speaking and telling of his heritage and beliefs. It is such work that creates a bridge between the past and the present.
[Anne Kim, ak13@geneseo.edu, 10/10]
Film Revew: "Ishi the Last Yahi"

1.       Ishi’s enthusiasm to learn about a different culture really surprised me because I expected the film to be a sympathetic film towards Ishi.

2.       The importance of environment is shown when Ishi and others are hunting. When they cannot catch anything, Ishi says it is due to the men smoking. He explains that not only does it scare away the animals but also pollutes the spirit and health of the environment.

3.       The value of friendship was also shown through the relationship between Ishi and Kroeber. Ishi’s effort of being a friend was shown through his understanding of Kroeber and his beliefs.





[Adam Saunders, ars11@geneseo.edu , 10/21]


Ishi the Last Yahi

1. The relationship between Ishi and Kroeber from what it appeared as in the film was much more than just an Ethnographer viewing a native individual. The friendship that was established between the two I think may have skewered his standpoint on Ishi. Possibly not too dramatically but still emotions created by close relationships will have a tendency to do so.


2. The public view of Ishi was stunning. How they treated and wrote about him in the newspapers as a savage and uneducated individual almost made the public out to be the savage and uneducated ones. Ishi has almost an innocents to him, not understanding that the way they treated him was something that would be expected for a child.


3. Bringing Ishi back to the place in which he was from was in two ways foolish but also a necessary action that needed to be done. Ishi had to come to terms with his past this is true, but he constant begging to not go back and Kroeber’s pushing him to be taken to the spot was a little unsympathetic towards Ishi. Especially considering the events that unfolded there.



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