Ishi, the last "wild" Yahi Indian, stumbles into the modern world of post-Gold-Rush California after 12 years of hiding with the remnant of his people. He fully expects to be killed, but he is desperate and tired of running ... alone. Luckily, he's adopted by 2 men who are interested in linguistics, native Americans, and who work for a university museum. Ishi goes to live in the museum and stays there for about 5 years before he dies of tuberculosis.
I found the narrative to be extremely interesting as it began by expounding upon the history of the wiping out of the area's "wild" native Americans. I found it quite shocking that most of this started with horrible men who liked to kill the natives for sport and fun. The author cites the writings of these men and their description of their slaughters for sport. Of course, this caused the natives (who had lost family members) to seek revenge on area settlers who sought revenge on the natives who sought revenge on the ... well, you get the picture.
Ishi is painted as a kind, observant man with a childlike awe of the new world around him. I wish the videos taken of him had survived, but I feel like I got to know what was possible to know of him through the biographer's writings. One idea that he voiced that will stick with me, though, is that modern man may have much knowledge, but he lacks wisdom. The white man looked at him and saw someone technologically and culturally from the stone age, but he looked at the white man and saw someone technologically and culturally unwise.
Definitely an interesting book, well worth the read just for the history and the ideas contained within.