The Chico News & Review published an article about Ishi, who is commonly known as the “last wild Indian.” Featuring several anthropologists, both old and new, the article discusses the “legacy of Ishi” and illustrates why Ishi remains pertinent to anthropological practice and knowledge even though a hundred years have passed since his sudden appearance:
The story of Ishi is familiar in part because it’s so remarkable. Known across California and beyond as the “last wild Indian,” he simply walked out of the wilderness one hot August day in 1911 and into civilization. He was 49 years old, or so they estimated, and he was to become one of the most famous Native Americans in history.
What seems to surprise people about Ishi was his ability to embrace Western culture while remaining true to himself. He wasn’t the “savage” that people thought he would be; he was amazingly similar in emotions and behaviors to the white anthropologists who became his friends.
“We make a big thing about these people being Russian, or these people being Indian. But we all have the same basic needs—we all cry, we all laugh,” said Richard Burrill, a teacher and author who’s been writing about Ishi for decades. “There are many more similarities than differences, and that’s what anthropology teaches us.”
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A century later, the ‘last wild Indian’ continues to teach us about Native American life, California history and humanity
By Meredith J. Graham