The Last Stone Age Man in America Part 4

About the last stone age man in America a Native America known as Ishi who lived life like a primitive, history and biography.


Two years later, in 1870, nine Yahis went to the cabin of W. S. Segraves, a rancher living on Butte Creek, to barter for three Indian women who had been captured by Segraves's men. But after a suspicious dialogue, the small band melted back into the covering brush and disappeared. Whether Ishi was in this group could not be learned for certain, for he either did not remember or feared being incriminated in some manner. In any event, his people had learned their terrible lesson. The white men never suffered from them again.

Retreating farther into the rugged, secluded scrub and chaparral country of Mill Creek, the Indians learned a secretiveness that almost passes understanding. Always they were silent. They speared salmon with harpoons, fashioned traps and snares for smaller creatures out of animal sinew and milkweed fibers, stalked deer quietly with bows and arrows, and dried their fish and game on small racks camouflaged to resemble the ever-present chaparral. In this way they were able to subsist more than 35 years within 15 mi. of civilization without giving white men more than a few fleeting glimpses of them.

One can picture Ishi, a primitive savage, hiding with his older companions from the face of modern man, year after year, decade after decade, until his raven black hair became streaked with gray--until, one by one, he saw those who made up his world grow feeble, sicken, then sink into that final sleep he could not understand.

Then he must have felt loneliness knowing that he was the last of his people in a world inhabited by strange white beings who hated him and who had a fire magic that slew from afar.

One fancies him stealing to the edge of a clearing to watch white men pass, white men singing, perhaps, or whistling gaily, or chatting sociably with each other. Year after year, for three long, lonely years, Ishi must have done this.

Finally, in the summer of 1911 he turned southward into the world of the saltus ("white men") in search of the death that would end his misery. For three months he wandered aimlessly, more than 50 mi. from his old home. Weak from hunger and weary in mind and body, his stubborn will kept him on his feet. Perhaps most revealing of the iron strength of will within this little man was the way in which he prepared himself for his appearance in the white world. Feeling sure that he would eventually be killed, Ishi had ceremonially burned his hair short as he had after the death of his mother (she had been the last to die). If there was none left to mourn for him, then he would mourn for himself and his people.

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