The Story of Ishi.
Ishi was a man, a man who was the last of his tribe.
Look at his eyes. It was always filled with sorrow. Always.
The story of Humanity, to most of us is a story of triumph. How we fought the ravages of nature to emerge victorious. How we created a civilisation of comfort far away from the forces of nature.
Ishi depicts the other side of the story. A man who lost everything that he could attribute to himself - his family, his culture, his habitat and much more.
Having foraged in the wilderness alone for years, he walked into the western world. That would have been his last resort, walking into an open zoo of animals that killed all his tribesmen, women and children included.
He was the last of Yahi tribe, which was one among the countless native american tribes that were annihilated by intruders, the white men.
At the heart of these massacres were conflicts generated from the greed of enterprising white men who barged into their lives and wiped out them from the surface of earth.
The gold rush brought tens of thousands of these greedy miners and settlers to northern California, which put great pressure on the native populations. Gold mining ruined water supplies and decimated fish population. The deer and other fauna left the area, making lives miserable for the natives.
When the settlers started farming and raising cattle, new conflicts began. Most of the native american population was wiped out by these settlers who claim America to be theirs.
Now they want to make it great again! I ask heavens, to which barbaric times they want to set the clocks back to?
On that fateful night, known as the night of Three Knoll Massacre, he escaped to the wilderness with his family. That was in 1865. Almost everyone, except his family, of the tribe was killed that night. Even the ones managed to survive were hunted down.
Then, decades later in 1908, his family was attacked by ‘civilised’ humans who were surveying the area. His mother died in the attack, his uncle and sister were lost while trying to escape and he was left to live in the wilderness for another three years before he decided to walk into the land of ‘civilised’ humans.
Perhaps he was contemplating suicide, we’d never know.
Once he was back, he was subjected to extensive research to learn more about his lost culture. The made his speak his language, recorded it. Made his create projectile points that were used his tribesmen for hunting, recreate the houses and pieces of his culture for the academic purpose and what not.
They even autopsied his body against his culture and beliefs, despite the requests by his few well wishers among the research community he treated him like a human and maintained strong bonds with the lonely man.
He was hunted even after the death. Sounds american. They should be proud!
They made him wear western clothes, but they could never wipe off that melancholic solitude that simmered in his eyes. Humanity has its own strange ways to find completeness. New places can bring about excitement, but happiness needs people who belong to us.
Look at his eyes. Our generation, or perhaps the last 2-3 generations in civilisation, wouldn’t have endured that much pain. I can only imagine.
Story of Ishi points to a lot of historic realities we seem to forget. The points in history that are directly linked to human greed leading to suffering and decimation of the less privileged.
As an Indian, I can sympathise. My country was kept in captive and exploited by the British which resulted in the death of millions of my country men. All the name of their god - His Highness, Profit of the Bullion.
If you want to know more, you could read about some of the horrific native american massacres here.