Ishi, as he would come to be known, is considered the “last wild Indian.”. In 1871, 4 settlers came along and murdered 30 of the Yahi tribe, approximately 2/3 of the tribe. This was one of many such incidents that are categorized as the “California Genocide.”
As you can see, the Native American population in California declined quite rapidly until it reached its nadir around 1910.
In 1908, what remained of Ishi’s family fled upon seeing strangers. His uncle and sister disappeared. His mother remained hidden at the camp and then died from an illness. Now Ishi was the last of his people. He remained in the wilderness without anyone to talk to for a few years.
Upon descending, he was studied by anthropologists, chief among them being A. L. Kroeber, father to the famous science fiction/fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin.
Ishi was able to tell anthropologists many things about his people. Unfortunately, he was often ill. About five years after descending from the mountains, he died from one of the many illnesses his immune system couldn’t fight off because he lacked any kind of immunity.
One of the saddest things about this is that Ishi isn’t his real name. We’ll never know what it was. “Ishi” was the word for “man” in his language. The Yati people had a custom that proscribed them from speaking their name unless formally introduced by another of their tribe. As he was the last of his tribe, he could only say, “I have none, because there were no people to name me.”