Mountain Views News, Combined Edition Saturday, August 29, 2020

MVNews this week:  Page 10


Mountain View News Saturday, August 29, 2020 


Once in a while we find a 
friendly kitty who was abandoned 
by his owners who 
moved away and left him. 
That is how we learned of 
STANLEY. He is so sweet 
and so friendly in spite of being left on his own, scared and 
alone. Stanley is only 6 months old. He is currently acclimating 
with a clean bill of health, and we have high hopes 
for a quick adoption for him. He is certainly a cutie pie 
with awesome eyes! He’ll make someone a great pet! See 
more pictures, his video, adoption information and application 
on our website at the Young Cats page at

Pet of the Week

One-year-old Caramela was found as a stray, injured, 
and in need of emergency surgery – but now she’s all 
healed up and eager to be adopted! Despite all she’s 
been through, Caramela is bright-eyed, alert, and 
friendly. Even when she was in a fashionable cone 
after her surgery, she still leaned into people’s hands 
for head rubs while making biscuits. In her foster 
home, Caramela revealed that she’s an excellent toy 
hunter. This well-rounded gal would be a wonderful 
addition to any home! 

The adoption fee for cats is $90. All cat adoptions 
include spay or neuter, microchip, and age-appropriate 
vaccines.New adopters will receive a complimentary health-and-wellness exam 
from VCA Animal Hospitals, as well as a goody bag filled with information about 
how to care for your pet.View photos of adoptable pets at and 
fillout an online adoption application. Adoptions are by appointment only.Pets may 
not be available for adoption and cannot be held for potential adopters by phone 
calls or email.



 [Nyerges is the author of “Foraging California,” “Guide to Wild Foods,” “How to Survive 
Anywhere,” and other books. He can be reached at, or 
Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041]

On August 29, 1911, an obviously starving man was found trying to find bits of meat 
outside a meat-processing facility in Oroville, California. He was dressed in rags of old 
cotton fragments. He was arrested by the local sheriff without incident, and taken to the 
local jail, and it was clear that he understood neither English nor Spanish.

It was quickly determined that he was an indigenous man who spoke a language that was 
not common, and anthropologists and other translators were called. 

In the first week of September in 
1911, crowds of local people came by 
the jail to see the man that the media 
were then calling a “wild Indian.” 

It turns out that this “wild Indian” 
was the last of his group of the 
Northern California Yana territory. 
Through a translator that spoke a 
similar language, they learned that 
this man had wandered about 60 
miles from his home camp, and that 
all of his family and clan were dead. 
He was the last of the Yahi (the 
southern-most of the Yana group), 
and because a name was demanded, 
the translator decreed that he will be 
called “Ishi,” meaning “man” in the 
Yahi language.

In his first few days in his jail cell, 
Ishi ate or drank nothing that was 
given him even though he was obviously 
emaciated. It was learned later 
that Ishi believed he would be put to 
death by his white captors, since that 
is what had happened to everyone 
else in his little circle of family and 

Thomas Waterman and Alfred Kroeber, 
two professors with the University 
of California, Berkeley, Museum 
of Anthropology, intervened and 
took Ishi under their wings, and 
brought him to their facility, then 
in San Francisco, where the story 
slowly unfolded. Ishi lived there for 
the next five years until he died in 
March of 1916.


The story of Ishi is a fascinating one. He has been compared to the famous 5000 year old “Ice man” found in 
the Swiss Alps, whose body and artifacts told us so much about that bronze age period of Europe. But Ishi 
was a living person, not an artifact from the past. He has also been described as a living Rosetta Stone, a way 
to translate the literal practices and facts from one nearly extinct culture to another.


Much has been written about this “last wild man” who came out of the California wilderness in 1911. To 
some, he was an embarrassment, a harsh reminder that the indigenous peoples of the state were still here, 
after the harsh treatment by the Spanish missionaries. The native population also survived the short reign 
when California was part of Mexico, and they (barely) survived the Gold Rush era of 1848 to 1855, when 
thousands of mostly Irish miners came into the state with the hopes of getting rich. 

The gold rush put great pressure on the indigenous populations, since the mining activity damaged water 
supplies, killed fish, and new infectious diseases such as smallpox and measles were introduced. If that 
wasn’t enough, the new settlers of the area put a bounty on the natives. The northern-most Yana group actually 
was entirely wiped out, and the Yahi group (of which Ishi was a part) dropped precipitously. 

The work of Waterman and Kroeber did much to reveal and reconstruct the Yahi culture, and the life of Ishi 
in particular.

Ishi was able to describe family units, and the ceremonies that he knew, though much of his peoples’ traditions 
had already been lost when he was growing up. He also identified material items and showed the 
techniques by which they were made, such as how to make fire with the hand drill, how to make arrows, 
bows, and shelters. He also provided valuable information on his own language to the linguist Edward Sapir.

On the level of physical anthropology, Ishi showed to the world how people made their tools, homes, and 
lived off the land. He became a hero of flintknappers – those who take up the art of making stone arrow 
points – because he was one of the very last native stone tool makers in North America, and his techniques 
are now widely copied.


But Ishi lacked the acquired immunity to the diseases common among European Americans, and was frequently 
ill. He died of tuberculosis on March 25, 1916. It is said his last words were "You stay. I go."


Possibly the best presentation of the story of Ishi was documented in Theodora Kroeber’s 1961 book, “Ishi 
in Two Worlds.” Theodora was the wife of Alfred Kroeber, who worked most closely with Ishi, so she had 
access to some of the best insights into the recent history of Ishi, and his clan. For example, most of the 
northern Yana people were considered extinct by the Gold Rush, and Ishi’s southern clan, the Yahi, had 
greatly reduced numbers. After the Three Knolls Massacre, the Yahi population was even further reduced. 
Ishi would have been a very young child in 1865. 

In late 1908, a group of surveyors reported coming across what they later believed to be Ishi’s camp. It was 
occupied by two men, a middle-aged woman, and an elderly woman. These were respectively Ishi, his uncle, 
his younger sister, and his mother. Ishi, his uncle, and younger sister managed to flee, but the mother was 
sick and unable to flee and hid herself in blankets. The camp was ransacked, and the mother died shortly 
after Ishi returned. Ishi never saw his sister and uncle again. 

Ishi then spent the next three years in the wilderness alone. There were fires in that area, and at about 50 
years of age, Ishi had wandered about 60 miles from his home camp. By August 29, 1911, Ishi was starving, 
and was captured while hunting for meat scraps, thus beginning the revealment of the last indigenous person 
who’d been living the old ways.

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