Friday, July 6, 2012

"Ishi - The Last Yahi" (1992)

Imagine being the last living person of your nationality, religion, or even just family. Now imagine having to hide in order to avoid being hunted down as a trophy. If you can possibly imagine these two scenarios successfully, then; and only then; will you fully understand the story of “Ishi – The Last Yahi”, which tells the story of an Indian named Ishi, who had fled into the foothills of California after the massacres of his fellow tribesmen in the 1860’s and 70’s.
With only a handful of warriors, their squaws, and scant supplies, the group chose to live in hiding rather than to surrender their age old customs for the white man’s world. For forty years, just as the Israelites had spent 40 years in the wilderness, Ishi and his fellow tribesmen were forced to survive in the foothills of California. Using all of their native skills they established a community, with leaders to make decisions and mete out justice, and hunters who provided the wild game on which they existed. They became a mythological presence; everyone knew they were out there; but no one had actually seen them.
And then, one day in 1911, Ishi, the last of the Yahi tribe, emerged from the wilderness half dead from starvation, to enter the white man’s world. After an initial stay in prison; there was simply no other way proposed to deal with him at the time; he was persuaded by anthropologist Alfred Kroeber to spend the last 4 years of his extraordinary life at the Museum of Anthropology in San Francisco, where he regaled visitors with his history of the Yahi people. He also told of his 40 years in exile, explaining how the tribe lived, and died in the wilderness, cut off from the life, and traditions, they had always known.
Fascinating in its detail; and with the use of photographs, some actual silent film footage, and even a rare voice recording of Yahi himself; this documentary film will make the viewer think long and hard about the foundation upon which America was built. “From sea to shining sea” takes on a whole new significance when confronted with the price paid by the people who were essentially victims of our policy of Manifest Destiny.

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