This essay follows the history of hunting Indians in California to the hunting of Ishi—the “last wild Indian in North America”—by anthropologists from the University of California through to the present-day hunt for Ishi’s legacy and his physical remains. William Bauer explores why Ishi was hunted, and what he has represented to different constituencies: the savage Indian on the frontier, killing livestock as well as white men, women, and children, and deserving a violent end himself; a symbol of Indian life supposedly uncontaminated by modernity; and tribal sovereignty and self-determination, a renaissance of indigenous politics and culture made possible by the survival of indigenous people and nations, and the economic opportunities of Indian gaming. Bauer argues that people who hunt for deeper meaning in Ishi’s legacy are often looking to understand something about themselves, not about indigenous people.
Stop Hunting Ishi
William Bauer is an associate professor of history at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the author of "We Were All Like Migrant Workers Here": Work, Community and Memory on California's Round Valley Reservation, 1850–1941. His current research focuses on the oral traditions of California Indians.
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William Bauer; Stop Hunting Ishi. Boom 1 September 2014; 4 (3): 46–50. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/boom.2014.4.3.46
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