Academic journal article Western Folklore

Ishi in Three Centuries

Academic journal article Western Folklore

Ishi in Three Centuries

Article excerpt

Ishi in Three Centuries. Edited by Karl Kroeber and Clifton Kroeber. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003. Pp. xx + 416, acknowledgments, introduction, photographs, maps, figures, tables, notes, appendix, suggested readings, index. $49.95 cloth)

Without Theodora Kroeber's classic Ishi in Two Worlds, first published in 1961, memory of this most famous of all California Indians would be limited to but a few diligent historians and anthropologists. Now, forty years later, our appreciation of the significance of Ishi's life is enriched with the publication of Ishi in Three Centuries, a collection of essays edited by two of Theodora's sons, Karl and Clifton.

The impetus for the creation of this volume was a disclosure that rocked the world of human-science scholarship. In the late 1990's, scholars discovered that Ishi's brain had not been interred with his ashes after his death from tuberculosis in 1916 but instead had been sent to the Smithsonian Institution, where it had remained undisturbed over seven decades. Pressured by contemporary California Indians and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the Smithsonian turned Ishi's brain over to the Pit River Rancheria in California, and in August 2000 these remains were interred "in an unpublicized place so as to forestall invasions by curiosity seekers and tourists" (xiii). However, the story of Ishi did not end with the restoration and interment of his remains.

Ishi in Three Centuries updates what is now known about Ishi and brings together twenty-two essays dealing with the ongoing influence that his story exerts on practically everyone who hears it. The essays that comprise the book are organized topically. Part One, "Ishi in San Francisco," opens with the poignant memoir of Fred H. Zumwalt, Jr., who as a child spent a great deal of time with Ishi when Ishi was living at the museum. Zumwalt was one of many San Franciscans who wrote Theodora after she published Ishi in Two Worlds to express their appreciation for the book and to tell her of their own experiences with Ishi. The six essays in Part Two, "The Repatriation Controversy," cover the breadth and depth of issues and opinions regarding Ishi's remains. Included is the letter of Stanley Brandes, then chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, that was originally published in Anthropology News (May 1999), in which he "wishes to clarify for readers our [the Anthropology Department's] considered opinion on the disposition of Ishi's brain. …

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