Ishi's Brain by Orin Starn
In Search of America's Last "Wild" Indian

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A chronicle of the search for the truth about the life and death of a legendary Native American.

Captured in the hills of northern California in 1911, Ishi, the last stone-age Indian in North America, was brought to San Francisco by the famous anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, and became a living museum display until his death five years later.

Ishi's Brain is a first-person account by anthropologist Orin Starn, who sought to unravel the mystery of Ishi's true nature and to locate his brain in the archives of the Smithsonian museum in the hope of finally repatriating Ishi's remains. The trail to Ishi's brain leads Starn through the painful history of the extermination of the Indians, the strange and sometimes scandalous history of anthropology, and the changing, mixed-up world of Native California today. This absorbing new portrait of Ishi, wild man of Deer Creek, museum curiosity, and last of his tribe, will appeal to anyone interested in Native America, a story of science and scandal, and the life and legend of California's most famous Indian. 15 illustrations.

About Orin Starn

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Orin Starn, author of Nightwatch: The Politics of Protest in the Andes, is an associate professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.
Published February 1, 2004 by W. W. Norton & Company. 320 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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An anthropologist’s anthropologist who, like Franz Boas, believed in the “ ‘absolute equality and identity of all human races’ in their moral and intellectual capacity,” Kroeber did not display much of his sensitive relativist’s streak toward his friend’s traditions when he allowed segments of Is...

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Publishers Weekly

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(As Starn notes, California Gold Rush atrocities against Native Americans are so recent that people remember them firsthand from their grandparents.) One of Starn's main accusations is that the widow of the important, early anthropologist Alfred Kroeber first made Ishi's story famous through""wri...

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The New York Review of Books

I’d like to correct a couple of mistakes in Clifford Geertz’s review of my book, Ishi’s Brain: In Search of America’s Last Wild Indian [NYR, October 7].

Nov 04 2004 | Read Full Review of Ishi's Brain: In Search of Am...

News Review.

“Usually, anthropologists tend to write a bit at a distance,” Starn said, but, “I felt the Smithsonian should have granted joint custody of the brain to the Butte County Native American Cultural Commission [as well].” Yet Starn also came to be on good terms with those who ultimately retrieved t...

Feb 12 2004 | Read Full Review of Ishi's Brain: In Search of Am...


When Ishi emerged from hiding in 1911—the only survivor of massacres, bounty hunts, epidemics and starvation that wiped out the Yahi people—Kroeber quickly staked a claim to becoming his official guardian after he learned from an assistant that “this man is undoubtedly wild” and will make a “good...

Dec 18 2009 | Read Full Review of Ishi's Brain: In Search of Am...

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