Scene and Heard Film Series Presents Ishi, the Last Yahi | Heard Museum

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Scene and Heard Film Series Presents Ishi, the Last Yahi

Join us for our monthly Scene and Heard Film Series the film for November is, Ishi, the Last Yahi.

After the film there will be a discussion with Dr. Mona Scott, a professor at Mesa Community College, on the reliability of the film to the continued treatment by modern societies towards Indigenous Peoples.

About the Film

Ishi, the Last Yahi is a dramatic documentary film about Ishi, who came to be known as the “last wild Indian in North America.” His sudden appearance in 1911 stunned the country. His tribe was considered extinct, destroyed in bloody massacres during the 1860s and 70s, but he had survived. He had been hiding for forty years. When Ishi appeared, newspaper headlines across the country proclaimed the discovery of the Wild Man, the last Stone Age Man in North America.

For Alfred Kroeber, an anthropologist at UC Berkeley, this was great news. He had been searching for years to find unacculturated Indians so that he could document true aboriginal life in America. He arranged for Ishi to come to the Museum of Anthropology in San Francisco, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Ishi only lived four more years, but during his brief stay he transformed the people around him. His dignity and sense of self, his tireless dedication to telling his stories and showing his way of life, and his lack of bitterness towards the people who had destroyed his own, amazed and impressed everyone who met him. Because of Ishi’s courage and generosity, and Kroeber’s meticulous notes and recordings, we have a glimpse of life in this country before the white man. Ishi embodied the entire history of Native Americans: their life before contact, the tragedy of their destruction, their refusal to disappear, their determination to carry their culture into the Twentieth Century. The Kroebers believed that Indian cultures were destined to vanish and that Ishi’s story, as the last of his tribe, reflected the true plight of the Indian. But Native Americans have not disappeared.

The film, Ishi, the Last Yahi, is a brand new telling of Ishi’s story based on original research by Jed Riffe and on the book Ishi, the Last Yahi: A Documentary History. The The film looks at Ishi’s experience as an extreme example of the adaptability and determined, stubborn survival of Indian cultures in this country. New translations of Ishi’s songs and stories reveal the philosophy that made his adaptability possible. The film suggests that Ishi’s values, common to many Native American cultures, have a great deal to offer us today.

Runtime 57 minutes (CC)


The Scene and Heard Film Series is generously funded by:
A black and white photograph of Ishi squatting and making a fire.

Event Details

Saturday, November 9
11:30 am – 1:00 pm

Cost: Free

Steele Auditorium

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