Moody, 2003, 12.99, 371 pp.
In 1911 California, a starving and lonely young Wanasi, the last Yahi Indian leaves his woodland home expecting to join his people in death. However, instead of uniting with his revered ancestors, local ranchers capture and imprison the lad believing he is more animal than man.
In San Francisco, anthropologist Thomas Morgan learns of the last of the Yahi who he concludes would make the perfect addition to his Indian museum. He travels to Oroville to find the Yahi treated like a sideshow freak owned by Barnum. He gains the lad's freedom, renames him Ishi, and takes him back to “civilization”. His wife Allison understands being alone as she was abandoned as a child. She and Ishi feel a camaraderie that leaves her spouse on the outside while someone tries to destroy the museum through vandalistic acts.
This is an incredible work of historical fiction that touches the reader on several levels. Besides the obvious shared lonely displacement of Wanasi and Allison, Thomas finds companionship only with his artifacts and not with people. The last of a tribe hits deep into the solar plexus of the reader as this mirrors the loss of many languages vanishing in the world today.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner