Sunday, March 12, 2017

Studying Native Americans in California and the Northwest

Ostenaco - Skiagusta Uku - Mankiller of the Cherokeesby Sir Joshua Reynolds 1762 Gilcrease Museum

Native Americans and American History 
by Francis Flavin US National Park Service

California and the Northwest 

One of the most poignant stories in the history of Indian-White relations is the story of Ishi, a Yahi Indian, who stumbled out of the California backcountry and into a slaughterhouse corral in the summer of 1911. Ishi’s band had eluded capture and extermination for many years, but, when all had died except for Ishi, he decided to take his chances and present himself to his American neighbors. Ishi In Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961), is an account of Ishi’s life written by Theodora Kroeber, wife of professor Alfred Kroeber, who became one of Ishi’s caretakers. This amazing human interest story, written with a warm, empathetic intimacy, is truly a “must read.”

Another important work is Alvin M. Josephy, Jr.’s The Nez Percé Indians and the Opening of the Northwest (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965). This well-written history explores the Nez Percé Indians and their traditional way of life, their responses to increasing pressure from Whites and the resultant conflicts, and concludes with a description of the Nez Percé war and Chief Joseph’s subsequent flight. Lowell John Bean’s Mukat’s People: The Cahuilla Indians of Southern California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972) and Frederica deLaguna’s Under Mount Saint Elias: The History and Culture of the Yakutat Tlingit (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990) are good introductory texts on the Indians of California and Alaska, respectively.