The Last Stone Age Man in America Part 6

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


Ishi found automobiles far less fascinating than streetcars and ferryboats. He thoroughly enjoyed riding on streetcars and watched them endlessly. Like the big trains, they ran over iron trails, and their bells were much more pleasing than automobile horns. Many times he had to cross the bay on the ferry and find his way to the university's campus in Berkeley. There he would work with Kroeber or another professor on some problem of the Yahi language. In making these trips, Ishi had to switch from trolley to ferryboat to train to trolley. Returning home, he had to make the same changes. This meant he had to remember the number on each trolley and train. Once he had memorized the shapes of these numbers, he never took the wrong train or trolley. There were other gadgets, tools, and conveniences which Ishi discovered as the months went by. Some, such as matches, glue, penny whistles, and kaleidoscopes, impressed him as highly desirable, ingenious, and delightful. Others, such as doorknobs, safety pins, and typewriters, left him indifferent as to their values. As for "aeroplanes," as far as he was concerned they could not compare to hawks and eagles.

By the summer of 1912, Ishi had settled into a contented and varied routine. His days were filled to capacity. In between his learning, his teaching of the Yana culture, and his regular duties, he busied himself with adding spears, bows, and arrows to the various museum collections. It was their interest in this work that led as many as a thousand visitors to the museum daily. This work also brought Dr. Saxton Pope, a young medical doctor, into Ishi's life.

Pope had an absorbing interest in archery, and when he glanced out a window of the hospital (which was next door to the museum) one day and saw Ishi on the front lawn preparing to string a bow, he immediately noted the Indian's stance, his skillful hold, and his graceful method of release. Most of all, he was amazed by Ishi's accuracy. As he watched more closely, he became eager to learn from one who had lived by bow and arrow.

After that first afternoon, Pope and Ishi spent countless hours together, shooting not only bows made by Ishi, but others carefully selected from the numerous bow collections in the museum.

In return for the Yahi's teachings in archery, Pope introduced him to the fascinating world of surgical healing. Taking Ishi upstairs to the hospital's operating rooms, Pope let him handle and examine the many tools and materials used in the white people's curing process. The Indian's vast knowledge of butchering, skinning, and preparing game helped him to understand the internal makeup of human beings. He accompanied Dr. Pope to surgery many times and asked countless questions. He did not hesitate to say that he thought some operations, such as tonsillectomies, were unnecessary. According to Ishi, all that was needed to cure tonsillitis was to rub a generous amount of honey on the outside of the throat and neck and then blow ashes softly "over the inside of the throat from a quill or hollow reed."

In the summer of 1914, Professor Waterman, Dr. Kroeber, Dr. Pope, Pope's 11-year-old son, and Ishi (despite his many protests) went back to the land of the Yahis. Now the scientists had a chance to see Ishi in his own world.

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