Ishi in Three Centuries


Ishi in Three Centuries

Edited by Karl Kroeber and Clifton Kroeber

440 pages


May 2008


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Ishi in Three Centuries brings together a range of insightful and unsettling perspectives and the latest research to enrich and personalize our understanding of one of the most famous Native Americans of the modern era—Ishi, the last Yahi. After decades of concealment from genocidal attacks on his people in California, Ishi (ca. 1860–1916) came out of hiding in 1911 and lived the last five years of his life in the University of California Anthropological Museum in San Francisco.
Contributors to this volume illuminate Ishi the person, his relationship to anthropologist A. L. Kroeber and others, his Yahi world, and his enduring and evolving legacy for the twenty-first century. Ishi in Three Centuries features recent analytic translations of Ishi’s stories, new information on his language, craft skills, and his personal life in San Francisco, with reminiscences of those who knew him and A. L. Kroeber. Multiple sides of the repatriation controversy are showcased and given equal weight. Especially valuable are discussions by Native American writers and artists, including Gerald Vizenor, Louis Owens, and Frank Tuttle, of how Ishi continues to inspire the creative imagination of American Indians.

Author Bio

Karl Kroeber is Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. His most recent books include Creation Myths of Primitive America, Artistry in Native American Myths (Nebraska 1998), and Traditional Literature of the American Indian (Nebraska 1997). Clifton Kroeber is Emeritus Norman Bridge Professor of Hispanic American History at Occidental College. He is the coauthor of Massacre on the Gila and coeditor of A Mohave War Reminiscence, 1854–1880 and The Frontier in Perspective.


"Ishi in Three Centuries [is] a valuable addition to the 1961 seminal biography, Ishi in Two Worlds, by Theodora Kroeber. . . . Perhaps the greatest service of [this] book is to draw Ishi closer to us. . . . At a time when native culture in the state had been nearly eradicated, [Ishi] stepped from the wilderness and greeted us in friendship, and by his manner extended a forgiveness that is unaccountable and unwarranted. Nearly 100 years later, we seem to be reciprocating the gesture."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Assembles a couple of dozen essays, studies, documents, and personal statements from every direction—pro, con, white, Indian, scholarly, popular, ideological, official—on the evolution of the [Ishi] affair."—Clifford Geertz, New York Review of Books

"Anthropologists position themselves between the disenfranchised and the institutions that have failed them. This was certainly the case in the early 20th century. The story of Ishi and the behavior of several prominent anthropologists . . . highlights the moral dilemmas anthropologists still face.”—Choice

“This is a stunning tour de force and one of the most beautiful and moving works I have ever encountered. Ishi in Three Centuries has a wide appeal for humanists, social scientists, and any thoughtful person. Spectacular!”—Raymond Bucko, author of The Lakota Ritual of the Sweat Lodge

Ishi in Three Centuries is a collection of essays more eclectic than most but one that holds together exactly because Ishi, as person and icon, pulls us in so many different directions of inquiry and emotional response.”—Eliot West, The Southern California Quarterly

“Without Theodora Kroeber’s classic Ishi in Two Worlds, first published in 1961, memory of this most famous of all California Indians would be limited to but a few diligent historians and anthropologists. Now, forty years later, our appreciation of the significance of Ishi’s life is enriched with the publication of Ishi in Three Centuries, a collection of essays edited by two of Theodora’s sons, Karl and Clifton.”—Sylvia Grider, Texas A & M University, Western Folklore

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