Collection of Herb and Peggy Puffer
Click on the painting to see a detail.
Ishi, the last known member of his Yahi tribe, suddenly appeared in
Butte County in August 1911, after a lifetime of avoiding contact with
white society. Ishi soon came to the attention of Berkeley anthropologist
Alfred Kroeber, who eventually took him to live in the University of
California's Museum of Anthropology. This painting depicts an encounter
Frank Day said he had with Ishi shortly before these events.
In the artist's account, then nine-year-old Frank Day and his father came upon Ishi just outside Oroville. Ishi was engaged in an elaborate healing practice to save a wounded companion. Day explained: "It was apparent that the companion suffered from a wound in the stomach perhaps, a gunshot wound. A clamshell shield was placed to reflect the hot morning sun to heat water without smoke, in a round lava water holder. . . . A cloth was wrapped round and round and was thrown over a limb and at each end was a round rock, like an acorn pounding rock, that was heated and applied to the wound." Although he and his father returned to this spot to look for evidence of these strangers, it was not until Ishi appeared in Oroville and was held in the local jail that they saw him again, this time without his companion.