Dear Theodora Kroeber,
It's not always easy to look at things from a new point of view. History books say how great the westward expansion was, because it populated the west and built up our country. What the books do not explain very well is how white people killed thousands of Native Indians, such as the Yahi, Ishi's tribe.
Your book, Ishi, Last of His Tribe, really made me look at our history differently. Ishi's situation made me realize that stories and history can be different depending on the point of view of the person who is telling the story.
The Yahi were a peace-loving tribe who only killed animals to eat and would only shoot their sinew-backed juniper bows at the saldu, or white man, if they were attacked first. Of course, the bows of the Yahi were no match for the guns of the white man.
The fact that Ishi and his few remaining family members could walk through the woods only if they crouched down under trees and bushes almost makes me shudder. If they stood up, they would probably be shot. Ishi lived a life always wondering if he'd live through the day, never being able to stand up and relax or talk in more than a whisper. The reason: the saldu. Many of the settlers and trappers thought, "Oh, if I see a savage, I better shoot him or he'll scalp me."
Ishi, Last of His Tribe taught me what the Indians' view of the westward expansion was, and that to them, the white man was the savage, not the Indian. We Americans think we are the best and can do whatever we want to get what we want, no matter how many lives it costs. Many of us do not take the time to think about the people whose lives we are ruining. I think about the war in Iraq: the fact that Osama bin Laden planned the terrorist attacks doesn't mean that Americans can just go in and kill regular Iraqi people who are just trying to live their life. From their point of view, the Americans are savages, just like what the Indians thought.
Your book made me aware of how different stories can be if you only look at the facts from a different viewpoint. As the Indians say, never judge a man before you "walk a mile in his moccasins." Ishi was an amazing person.
Family Partnership Charter School, Anchorage, Alaska (home school)
Teacher/Parent: Nancy Meade