Archives / 1990 January Screenwriters Lab

The Last of His Tribe (Ishi)

Institute History

Description

This is the story of the last wild Indian in North America. Ishi belonged to the Yahi tribe of northern California, a people who had been so systematically slaughtered by homesteaders and forty-niners that by the early part of the twentieth century they were thought to be extinct. But one member of the tribe—a starving, middle-aged Indian—had survived. He was apprehended one night in 1911 as he attempted to steal meat from an Oroville slaughterhouse.

The discovery of this Indian, who would come to be known as Ishi, caused a sensation. He was the last living vestige of Stone Age man in a country that had thoughtlessly eradicated its primeval wilderness. Ishi was toasted and feted and sent off to the San Francisco Museum of Anthropology, where he lived and worked until his death from tuberculosis several years later.

The screenplay focuses on the relationship between Ishi and Alfred Kroeber, the renowned anthropologist who served as the Indian's guide and guardian in the strange new world of saltu (white man). It is the story of a powerful and unlikely friendship—of how two haunted men from different civilizations ultimately provide each other with the strength to embrace life.

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]