Archive for October 16th, 2008

Things Keep Their Secrets

I live in the high foothills of northern California, along the Cascade-Sierra divide, on land where Ishi once lived.

Ishi, “the last of the Yahi.” The marooned American Indian famously portrayed, with no little sympathy, by Theodora Kroeber in Ishi In Two Worlds. The man who, on August 29, 1911, most probably walked across what is today “my” “land,” on his way down out of the wilderness, into a corral occupied by east Oroville butchers. Who was briefly jailed, then spent the four remaining years of his TB-shortened life as a museum piece, literally living in a Museum of Anthropology, at the University of California in San Francisco.

Ishi, in his four short years among whites, didn’t say much. He never, as an example, revealed his name. At all times, however, whenever among whites, he was adamant: he was the last of his tribe. All other Yahi, all his relations, alpha to omega, had died.

This is my 34th year (on and off) on Ishi’s land.

And I will tell you this: Ishi was not the last of his tribe.

And, in this diary, I will tell you why that is all I will tell you.

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Mapping Through Georgia

There is a hopeful article in the November/December issue of Archaeology that details how modern archaeologists can obtain knowledge of vanished American Indian cultures without disturbing sites that may contain human remains.

At what is now Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site in what is now the state of Georgia, archaeologists have eschewed the digging of hundreds of thousands of test pits, which traditional archaeological methodology would consider necessary to fully assess what might lie concealed here, beneath 500 years of flood- and plow-scoured land.

Instead, an archaeological team moving over the surface of the earth utilized sophisticated portable sensors to map a shrouded underground city of more than 140 buried buildings, “without turning a single shovelful of earth.”

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When I Worked

October 2008
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