I've read this excellent book three times now, and each time it is rewarding. My family has vacationed near the area where Ishi walked out of the woods, and his story became even more real and more tragic to me when I saw the beautiful land that his people lost. Kroeber has provided an important last glimpse of a Native American living in the old way. In addition to the obvious issue of our decimation of indigenous peoples, the book also raises important questions about the treatment given Ishi when he came to live in white culture.
Imagine this: it's the 20th century, we have electricity, movies, telephones, trains, cars, the latest audio recording devices, indoor plumbing, and access to the usual luxuries and amenities of our western world. Then one day - here in the United States, out of our own country - a man appears out of the wilderness, almost magically transferred from the stone age to the steel age. Truth is said to be stranger than fiction, and the story of Ishi is one such example. Ishi was the last of the Yahi Indians, living in Northern California under a cloak of fear, secrecy, and evasion from white men, carrying on this lifestyle for the better part of four decades. In this thoroughly researched book, Theodora Kroeber tells Ishi's story. She covers the historical and geographical background of the Yahi Indians, how their lives began to change and their numbers decimated with the coming of the caucasions in the mid- 19th century, and how Ishi and the few remaining people of his tribe lived until Ishi was the last one left. She then tells us about the man himself, the last (happy) five years of his life in San Francisco, and the adjustments and learning Ishi went through in his new home. The author does a superb job of comparing and contrasting Ishi's stone age world with the steel age world, without the tedious prose often involved in such writing. This book is highly readable and strongly recommended.