Riffe, Jed and Pamela Roberts. Ishi: The Last Yahi. USA: Rattlesnake Productions,
1. Why were anthropologists so interested in discovering a “real and completely
wild” Indian? Early anthropologists were after uncontaminated people or doesn’t
know English or have been exposed to European culture or primitive civilization
that were about to disapprear. The culture was something pure, fixed, language,
myth, economy, kinship structure, and people wanted to study the people of
yahi as a purely isolated group. In some ways this sets up a leally odd way of
thinking about history. The people of the West had the history. This is a very
false idea. The very famous anthropologists misunderstood the irony. What he
was drawing attention to there was a time when European thought themselves of
being capable of having a history and rapid change. – very false way of thinking.
In order to find that out they had to find who didn’t get a touch from the West to
study uncontamited. Ishi belong to an earlier form of mankind. He’s
contemporary and wise, and people use this kind of notion to biological sciences
and think that all the human culture have a sort of evolution. They thought if
they could gain info about Yahi then they would be able to understand their
culture but this is false. They treated native north americans as not something
equal to them.
-Because IShi was the last man from the tribe. They were forced to gave up their
language and tradition. Alfred Krober – one of the anthropologists of that time.
He wanted to define wild and uncontaminated Indians. Has been interested in
studying the last Yahi. Wanted to bring the man[Ishi] for some sort of study. He
thought there was something more to know about the tribes. The myth about
spirits. Main reason: the focus was on the disappearance of the tribe.
2. What was “salvage anthropology”? What was “armchair anthropology”? ou ide
** final exam : ans: when the anthropologists try to learn as much as they can
before they disappear. What they wanted to do is to collect and not so much that
they wanted to understand but wanted to collect artifacts, stories and such. This
approach leads to reification of culture. Reify means turning cultural forms into
object. It’s the idea of making processes that are complex, freezing them into an
objective form. In the film they collected spears, put Ishi into the museum as part of
the collection. And the idea was that once they collect the language and all then they
will be able to classify. Museum usually contains old artifacts and collected to keep it
alive. The other problem was that it assumes that once you’re exposed to another
environment you seems to be like them and no longer value what they had before.
How people identify the changes, as long as you identify, you belong to that group.
Culture changes and so does society. Re.. lets you see humanity of others, shared
history and response to the historical changes.
- Culture was represented by object.
3. Was Ishi “uncontaminated” before 1911?
The anthropologists thought so as he didn’t speak English and didn’t have language.
But prof thinks he hasn’t been as he was hiding and went through severe challenges
of survival. In the video, they treat Ishi as a wild person. Appearing wild doesn’t
mean he was forced to be that way for survival, the reason why he didn’t wanna go
back is because that place gave him sufferings and obstacles. Instead of seeing him as a wild person should be seen as a persecuted person
– only one Indian was alive by the time of 1911. Yes, was the most uncontaminated
lotman of that time.
4. What surprised Ishi about the museum? What surprises you about Ishi? shockin
shocking to find the remains of the family in the museum. The European have put in
the display cases. In ishi’s life the things he found was used value. The value wasn’
enabling them to stay warm. In the museum they become objects has no value. Or
used value. It was shocked to find the souls of the anchestors. For him the bones, it
had social and religious values to Ishi , greater significance.
- the museum was created to honour him. He didn’t want to open up that much in
front of others . He built a Yahi house and master craftsman. Has been visited by a
lot of people – museum.
5. Why was it so difficult for Kroeber and others to learn Ishi’s language?
Language is a living thing and by the time they met ishi they were no longer the
other people who belonged to the group. There’s a lot of ishi stories and means how
his societies interpreted the world. Whereas we have been able to ask question to
the living tribes.
-Ishi was different. KRoeber telepgraphed the linguist. Sapir only knew the Yana
language which was close to Yahi. Yana grammatical elements were required to
understand him. He didn’t answer any questions about his past. Ishi had a different
way of conceiving who he was in the past than other humans. Tried to analyse the
language. Even when they could translate the words, the meaning of the words
remained a mystery. Couldn’t understand what he wanted to convey.
6. Why was it impossible to make sense of Ishi’s myths, even though they were
7. Why is it wrong to reify culture? (Reify: to convert mentally into a thing.) Can
culture be lost?
8. Why did Ishi laugh when he saw a man fly in a plane?
Coyote did things that defined nature all the time – next question.
9. Who is coyote? Is a type of character and familar figure to most society. What is a
trickster- full of paradoxes – breaks all the rules and teach us cultural lessons, to
prepare for the unpredictable. Most societies have such figures. If you grew up in the
west Africa then you’d be familiar. ? Can you think of other examples of
Ishi’s stories are recorded but no ways of learning about kinship or daily interaction
of their life. Language can be used as historical references. Ishi is able to learn the
language. Unlike the anthro’s who can’t learn without having techonological
supports. Its not because he was taught European shame but because every culture
has its own rules and expectation.
10. How do you feel about Ishi’s role at the 1915 International Exposition “The
Winning of the West”? – sad. Depressing. Horseback central of the exposition. The
earlier ways and settlers talked about.. called the natives baboons and orangutans
and conquered them and had a romantic figure. If you admit someone’s humanity its
harder to go to a war. Manifest destiny can be compared to other political regimes. 11. What was “manifest destiny”? Can you think of other colonial regimes that have
a similar ideology?