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Alfred Kroeber, a student of Franz Boas, is a pivotal figure in early 20th century American anthropology.He is known for his work with contemporary Native American nations, particularly his work with Ishi, a Yahi-Yana Indian who Kroeber and his research partner and wife Theodora Kroeber termed the “last wild Indian in North America” and who researchers at the time claimed was the last “Yahi Indian.”Ishi was one of a few survivors of a massacre of his band, and, starving, he came a white town in 1911 seeking food. He was taken to a University of California San Francisco museum, where he met
Alfred Kroeber and the anthropological linguist Edward Sapir (who you may remember from our discussion of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis). He spent the rest of his days working as a janitor and participating in research with Alfred Kroeber, Sapir, and others. When he died in 1916, over Alfred Kroeber’s objections, other University of California museum officials had him dissected, his brain sent to the Smithsonian. In 1999, his brain was returned to his relatives in the Redding Rancheria and the Pit River Tribe (both part of the larger YahiYani Nation) for burial. See the Timeline of Ishi’s contact with non-indigenous people.
Why would Kroeber feel there was benefit from working with Ishi? What benefits, if any, were there to Ishi? What do you think anthropologists should do to ensure vulnerable research subjects,such as survivors of massacres, are protected and have real options regarding how or if research is conducted on them? Why do you think Ishi’s story is framed as that of the “last wild Indian” or the last of his tribe? Some theorists have argued that colonialism-and in turn anthropology-rely on defining rigid categories of Us and Others, emphasizing the differences between the categories and dehumanizing “Others,” treating them by different standards than we apply to “Us.” Do you think this was the case in the research on Ishi?
 
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 ,Alfred Kroeber and the anthropological linguist Edward Sapir