Full Remains of Ishi Will Be Reunited, Buried by Tribe

From Associated Press

The full remains of Ishi, thought to be the last Yahi Indian, will soon be reunited and reburied according to tribal custom, says the state attorney general.

“The return of Ishi to his tribal homeland will help bring closure to a sad chapter in California Native American history,” Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said Friday at a conference about Ishi hosted by the Butte County Native American Cultural Committee.

The Pit River Tribe and Redding Rancheria, the tribal group most closely related to Ishi, will soon have his ashes and his brain, Lockyer said.

In 1911, Ishi emerged from the hills of eastern Tehama County after spending years in hiding. Anthropologists said he was the last member of the Yahi tribe. He lived and worked at the University of California’s anthropology museum in San Francisco as a living exhibit, making spears and bows and arrows, until his death in 1916.

The middle-aged man never told his name. Anthropologists came up with Ishi, which means “man” in a local Indian dialect.


His remains were cremated and interred in a black jar at Olivet Memorial Park in Colma, and his brain was removed and sent to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington.

The whereabouts of the brain was a mystery until an investigation in February 1999 discovered it had been sent to Washington. Lockyer and other state officials joined Native Americans to press for its return. The Smithsonian agreed a year ago.

In the meantime, Lockyer and the California Native American Heritage Commission filed suit in San Mateo Superior Court to allow his ashes to be removed from the Colma cemetery. The court agreed last month, Lockyer said.