One hundred years ago today, the last known “wild” American Indian stumbled out of the Sierra foothills into the corral of a slaughterhouse near Oroville, Calif., starving, sickly and alone.
Ishi had seen his tribe, called the Yani, killed off by disease and white settlers, many of whom came to California to take part in the gold rush.
Prior to the discovery of gold in the Sierras in 1848, it’s estimated Ishi’s tribe, called the Yahi, numbered about 400. The Yahi were part of a larger group called the Yaha, which had numbered about 3,000 and had lived in the western foothills of Mount Lassen for several thousand years, according to the book “Ishi: Last of His Tribe.”
With the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, a little more than an hour south of where Ishi eventually gave himself up, thousands of prospectors and settlers inundated northern California. In addition to attacking native Americans, miners often damaged the environment the Indians lived off while prospecting. Sometimes, the Indians attacked whites, as well.