Concerning Ishi:

People often ask me about Ishi. I know no more about him than anyone else who read my mother's book (Theodora Kroeber: Ishi In Two Worlds, University of California Press). The only useful thing I can tell people is about his name. Since his people didn't tell other people their name and there was no one to do it for him, he and my father Alfred Kroeber and the other people working with him agreed to use a word which they understood to mean, in Ishi's language, simply "Man." I don't know where allegations that Kroeber "invented" the name come from. But I do know that Kroeber (presumably imitating the man he learned the word from) pronounced it Ishi, rhyming with fishy — not Eee-Shee, which I keep hearing lately.

Ishi died thirteen years before I was born, so I have no nice anecdotes about knowing him when I was a child. I'm sorry.

But anyone interested in Ishi can find a lovely story written by a man who as a little boy who really did "play Indians" with Ishi in a San Francisco park. And you can find a great deal of updated information, passionate argument, and thoughtful ethical discussion, by Indians, anthropologists, and others. It's all in a new book edited by my brothers Karl and Clifton Kroeber: Ishi in Three Centuries, University of Nebraska, 2003.


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Updated Tuesday, 18-Jun-2019 10:14:40 EDT