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Wild Men

Ishi and Kroeber in the Wilderness of Modern America

Douglas Cazaux Sackman

Publication Date - 10 December 2010

ISBN: 9780195178531

382 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

An extraordinary friendship between Ishi, "the last wild Indian," and anthropologist Alfred Kroeber opens a unique window on America's passage from wilderness to modernity


When Ishi, "the last wild Indian," came out of hiding in August 1911, he was quickly whisked away by train to San Francisco to meet Alfred Kroeber, one of the fathers of American anthropology. When Kroeber and Ishi came face to face, it was a momentous event, not only for each man but also for the cultures they represented. Each stood on the brink--one was in danger of losing something vital while the other was in danger of disappearing altogether.

Ishi was a survivor, and he viewed the bright lights of the big city with a mixture of awe and bemusement. What surprised everyone is how handily he adapted himself to the modern city while maintaining his sense of self and his culture. Kroeber was professionally trained to document Ishi's culture and his civilization. What he didn't count on was how deeply working with the man would lead him to question his own profession and his civilization--how it would rekindle a wildness of his own. Although Ishi's story has been told before in film and fiction, Wild Men is the first book to focus on the depth of Ishi and Kroeber's friendship. Exploring what their intertwined stories tell us about Indian survival in modern America and about America's fascination with the wild, this text is an ideal supplement for courses on Native American history, the U.S. West, and the history of California.

About the Author(s)

Douglas Cazaux Sackman is Professor of History at the University of Puget Sound. He is the author of Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden (2005) and the editor of A Companion to American Environmental History (2010).


"Nuanced and thought-provoking...Recommended for readers interested in Native American studies and particularly the fate of Ishi."--Library Journal

"You would think the subject matter of Ishi has been thoroughly raked over by now, but Douglas Cazaux Sackman...has found two new seams that promise a payoff. [Wild Men] gives us new ways of thinking about the Ishi phenomenon."--History New Network

"This is a splendid narrative-touching, stark, and humane. Wild Men illuminates the lives and the worlds of these two remarkable men from the inside out."--Brian DeLay, University of Colorado, Boulder

Table of Contents

    Prologue: One Small Step
    1. The Yahi in Three Worlds
    2. The Anthropologist in Three Worlds
    3. "Worlds of Stuff"
    4. Making Tracks
    5. City Lights
    6. Nature Walks in the City and the Sierras
    7. The Call of the Wild
    8. Death Mask
    Epilogue: The Hearth of Prometheus and the Wilderness of Ishi

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