Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Ishi, Last of His Tribe, Theodora Kroeber tells the remarkable story of the last member of the Yahi. In 1911, having been completely alone for many months, Ishi walked from his Stone Age existence in the Northern California mountains into twentieth century American life.

Adopting Ishi’s point of view, Kroeber divides her account into four sections, beginning when Ishi was thirteen and one of only seven surviving Yahi. Since his infancy, his people had been hiding from the saldu (the whites) and their guns, or firesticks. The first section, entitled “The Moon Seasons,” describes how he knew no other life but this, yet he had “Power Dreams” in which he sensed something else in store for him.

The second section, entitled “The Cave,” covers about five years and describes the deaths of Timawi and of Ishi’s grandmother and grandfather, as well as the remaining family’s move to a cave that they believed would be safer from intrusions by whites. Part 3, “The Ending People,” covers about twenty years of hiding by Ishi and his mother and cousin. When his cousin disappeared, probably a victim of violence, and when his mother died of sickness, Ishi, totally alone, realized that “it is finished. I am free to go.” He walked out of the mountains to find the trail to the “Land of the Dead.”

Instead, he found white people who wanted to be his friends. Kroeber traces this remarkable event in the...

(The entire section is 415 words.)