Friday, 27 August 2010

On This Day 1911: Ishi Stepped Out Of The Stone Age

A victim of genocide, born on the run from an encroaching culture that was totally alien to the frame of reference he'd have known. Fresh out of options, he turned to face the very thing he'd run from his whole life, and one afternoon; bewildered and exhausted Ishi stepped out of the stone age and into the 20th century. He was imprisoned, poked, prodded, and gawped at. Then at last, protected, befriended and given the welcome such a stranger deserves.

... Somehow, despite Ishi having endured the horrors and hardships of seeing his people murdered, and continuously aware that Americans might find and kill him too, Ishi continued to accept life as each new day came his way. Even after every other person in his clan was gone, Ishi lived on alone like a signal beautiful flower firmly accorded in the soil of a hillside that had already eroded away. Indeed, “a unique gentlemanliness… beyond all civilized breeding and training… an outward expression of a pure inward spirit…”

Theodore T. Waterman, Professor of Anthropology at Berkeley

I first read Ishi's story in the amazing 'Hunting with the bow and arrow'. Inspired by Ishi and the spirit of Robin Hood. The surgeon, bow hunter, and Edwardian wag Dr Saxton Pope offers this thesis on bow craft and hunting as taught to him by Ishi. Thanks to the non-profit Guttenberg project the book can be downloaded for free or you can read the review

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