The Last Stone Age Man in America Part 5

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


His story does not end here, however, for he was to remain in the white world for almost five years. And while no one can accurately determine Ishi's feelings during his first days in the museum, he undoubtedly found life quite different from his expectations. He had come into a world so completely alien to him that it was as if he had landed on an unknown planet. But the fact that he was able to put aside his 50 years of wilderness living, to find a place in his new surroundings, and to form deep and sincere friendships with those who knew him well, speaks for an intelligent understanding that was able to accept the actualities of the here and now.

In the beginning, of course, he was extremely shy and frightened. Until he became acquainted with his new surroundings, every unexpected sound or loud noise caused him to jump. There was a fort a few miles from the museum, and at first, during artillery practice, Ishi became terrified as the thundering booms of the cannons echoed through the museum. Visitors to the museum who recognized Ishi would dash up to him and shake his hand vigorously. A greeting of this nature usually left Ishi spellbound, and he remained frozen in the spot for several moments afterward. His one great dread, never overcome completely, was of crowds. This is not hard to understand in view of his lonely life in a tribe that numbered no more than 12 for more than 30 years. A lone white had always been a signal of mortal danger to him. No wonder that a crowd of 50 or more literally paralyzed him.

Nevertheless Ishi was eager to share his knowledge of a vanished way of life with those who sincerely wanted to know about it. Each Sunday afternoon he put on demonstrations of his Stone Age skills. Sometimes he might make fire with a bow drill, shape a piece of obsidian into a superbly crafted arrowhead in 30 minutes, or demonstrate the swift stringing of a bow and how to hold and shoot it.

He was put on the payroll of the University of California as a janitorial assistant at a salary of $25 a month, half of which he saved. He soon learned to handle his own money, shop for his own groceries, and prepare his own food in the white man's style.

Of white people's cooking Ishi remarked: "White man puts good food in pot full of boiling water. Leaves a long time. Food cooks too fast, too long. Meat spoiled. Vegetables spoiled. The right way is to cook like acorn mush. Put cold water in basket. Place hot rocks in water till it bubbles, add acorn meal. It cooks pukka-pukka. Then it is done. Same way, make deer stew. Or rabbit stew. Cook pukka-pukka. Not too long. Meat firm, broth clear, vegetable good, not soft and coming apart."

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