Ishi by Theodora Kroeber

An excerpt:


The big winds of Spring were a welcome announcement of renewal.  They were cold and gusty, but they blew around the warm earth-covered houses harmlessly, blowing themselves out, and were followed by warm rain.  Then came the miracle.  The bare rocks of the plateaus, the hills, and the meadows were painted overnight in the fresh green of new clover.  The sun shone warm, and the streams filled with leaping salmon swimming strongly upstream from the sea.  While the men speared and netted the salmon, the women filled baskets with the precious clover.  There was feasting and thanksgiving.  No salmon bones were thrown away: it would have been a disrespect to do so; dried and pounded and ground in mortars, they were eaten thankfully.  The ribs of the Yana became overlaid with fat, and babies no longer cried hungrily.


Kroeber’s Ishi is a non-fictional biography of the last member of the Yana clan of native Americans, who were once living in the foothills of California.  It is truly remarkable to learn about their cyclical way of life and how each season served a very distinct and important function.  Whereas, often times, our culture attempts to nullify the effects of seasons, some cultures thrived in embracing them and the change (or, renewal, as it were) they bring.

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