My Ishi’s Spirits Story

As I was learning more about the Yahi, I found out that Ishi’s last request was to have his spirit set free (no autopsy performed).  His belief was that his body had to be kept whole so his spirit could travel to the next place.  The scientists did not honor his last request.

I told Dr. Johnson I was sad about this.  He told me Ishi’s brain was in a jar on a shelf by Einstein’s brain and his ashes were in the cemetery at The University of Berkley.

A few weeks or months later (as my work allowed) I told Dr. Johnson that I was going to go to the University of Berkley and get Ishi to set his spirit free.  He said they would not give him to me because I was not a relative or Native American.  He went on to say new studies indicate that Ishi was probably at least part Maidu Indian and I would have to get their help. The Maidu historically didn’t get along with the Yahi so getting them to help Ishi was going to require an act of God.  I prayed about it.

A while later at the barber shop I was telling the guys that I needed the Maidu tribe’s help.  An old cowboy (Don Stevens) told me I should go to see the Chief of the Maidu tribe.  He said the chief was going to be at the pow-wow in Paradise (a town about 60 miles away) the next day.  I went there and got permission to enter the tribal chief’s meeting place.

I told the Chief Ishi’s spirit story and asked for his help to set Ishi’s spirit free.  He said he would bring it before the council.  A year or so later the Maidu nation got Ishi and took him back to his homeland to set his spirit free. 

I don’t t tell this story for a pat on the back.  Rather I want you to know I have deep feelings and care about the ancestral spirits of this land.