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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Hunting With Ishi - The Last Yana Indian


Theodora Kroeber's brilliant and compassionate Ishi in Two Worlds (1961) refocused attention on the tragic story of Ishi, the last Yana (Yahi) Indian. Almost forgotten today— except among the older generation of California anthropologists—is an account of Ishi and his hunting techniques which appeared as the first three chapters of Saxton T. Pope's Hunting with the Bow and Arrow (1923a). Long out of print and seldom available because of the demand for used copies among archery enthusiasts, Pope's book is matched among the classic works on American archery only by Maurice Thompson's The Witchery of Archery (1878). Thompson's account of his hunting experiences with bow and arrow in the Okefenokee Swamp after the Civil War led to a rise of interest in archery in America in the late nineteenth century. This interest was on the wane when Pope's book appeared. Pope's work, along with its sequel, The Adventurous Bowmen (1926), which recounted his safari to Africa to hunt big game with bow and arrow, helped stimulate a revival of archery as an American sport which continues to this day. Although the essay reprinted below is non-technical in nature, Pope was a keen observer of Ishi's hunting methods, and he provides a wealth of ethnographic detail.

Saxton T. Pope was born in I875 in Fort Stockton, Texas. He was a man of varied interests and many unusual accomplishments. During his high school years, he built an airplane that would rise and fly, and throughout his life he maintained close associations with the world of aviation, including the Wright Brothers. He graduated from and served as an associate clinical professor of surgery at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco. As a surgeon, he helped develop the science of blood transfusion and intra-tracheal anesthesia with surgery of the heart and lungs. He was the first person to use a bamboo pole for pole-vaulting, and he held the world's record for flight shooting in archery. Pope first met Ishi in 1911. He learned to speak the Yana language and became a close friend as well as the personal physician to Ishi. His interest in archery first developed under Ishi's guidance in 1912. His technical works include Yahi Archery (1918), The Medical History of Ishi (1920), and A Study of Bows and Arrows (1923b).

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