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   (18?? – 1916)


Class of 2007
Influence on the Sport

           "You Stay, I Go"                 

There he stood ... tearfully straddling two worlds, bridging two cultures. For him there were three realities ... yesterday, today, tomorrow. Looking back he saw life; his youth, family, home, ... his world. Pondering the present he could only feel confusion, emptiness, and grief. The future, as far as he could imagine one, offered loneliness and fear; an unknown world into which he must walk if he was to live. But he was to walk it alone. There was no one by his side, no one to guide him, no one to give comfort. They were all gone. He was the last of the Yahi.....


 Imagine if you can, bearing the burden of grief that Ishi bore. From the time he was a child, he witnessed the systematic slaughter of his people. He lived his entire life in fear. Always hiding, always running. He watched helplessly as his friends and relatives were killed, lost, or died of hunger. He struggled to survive while his world grew smaller and smaller. His tiny circle of companions, his last connection to the Yahi and their long tradition, disappeared. They dwindled away before him and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Everything was gone. His world had vanished and he had not one soul to turn to, to talk to, to walk with. He was the only Yahi speaking person alive in the world. No one else, they were all gone, but he ... Ishi. He was the finale.

The last known survivor of a dying tribe of Yana - or Yahi - Deer Creek Indians, Ishi is recognized today as "Americas last primitive Indian archer." No one will ever know the details of his early life; however, at dawn of August 29th, 1911, the terror stricken "Stone Age savage" was found cowering near the small village of Oroville, California.

Emaciated, exhausted, and on the brink of starvation, Ishi was taken into custody and housed in the Oroville Jail where authorities provided food and shelter. As word of his capture spread, two professors of Anthropology at the University of California - Alfred Kroeber and T.T. Waterman - traveled from San Francisco to study the Oroville "wild man" and perhaps unravel the mystery of his ancestry. Only when professor Waterman finally spoke a word of the "Yana language was communication with Ishi established.

Eventually the professor's returned to San Francisco accompanied by Ishi, providing him with furnished living quarters in the university’s museum. It was here that Ishi first met Dr. Saxton Pope, an instructor at the California School of Medicine and the physician who had been charged with monitoring Ishi's physical condition. What began as a purely professional relationship quickly developed into a strong friendship. Soon Ishi was busy teaching Dr. Pope and his close friend, Arthur Young, how to knap obsidian arrowheads, make a bow and arrow (or sawa), how to shoot them, and how to hunt Indian-style with these primitive tools.

By sharing the cultural secrets of how Yana people lived and hunter, Ishi instilled in his new found white friends a passion for pursuing wild game with the bow and arrow. Together they stalked deer, bear, and small game in the north central California wilds along Deer Creek near Mount Lassen.

Ishi lived only five years after his capture in Oroville, succumbing to pulmonary tuberculosis on March 25, 1916.

Despite the relatively short time Ishi spent with Saxton Pope and Art Young, he left a lasting legacy that lived on in the personal memories and published writings of the two noted pioneer archers and bowhunters.  Even today Ishi's influence is left by all who follow the trail blazed by Pope and Young.

Ishi was in fact the singular most significant bridge to modern bowhunting. His impact flowed from Pope and Young, and  through, Fred Bear and Glen St.Charles. He was the cornerstone in the foundation of bowhunting as we know it today.

Notes of Interest:

  • Known as “The Last Primitive Indian Archer”

  • Only Survivor of the Yana or Yahi Deer Creek Tribe; Captured 1911 in Oroville, California

  • Met Dr. Saxton Pope at the University of California While Being Housed for Study; Shared His Bow and Arrow-Building Skills

  • Hunted Deer, Bear, and Other Northern California Game with Pope, Art Young, and “Chief” Compton, Teaching His Friends Ancient Stalking and Shooting Methods

  • Sparked Interest in Bowhunting That Spread Nationwide Through Pope’s Books and Magazine Articles

  • The Ishi Award Is the Pope and Young Club’s Highest Award



Ishi with T.T.Waterman


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