Professor writes the true story of Ishi
Retired Siskiyou County teacher returns to class in November to help students celebrate Native American Heritage Month
Cindy Biggs-Weiss wanted to write a book that gives elementary school children the opportunity to delve into the remarkable life story of Ishi, the last known member of the Native American people Yahi.
Now, with her self-published book in hand, she has been invited to teach him in Michelle Jackson’s fifth grade class at Delphic Elementary in the Montague area.
“A Man Named Ishi: A Picture and Coloring Book” is part of Jackson’s schedule for three Thursdays, November 11, November 18, and December 1.
âI’m so happy to be able to share this story with them,â said Biggs-Weiss, who has taught for over 30 years at Delphic and Montague Elementary.
Teaching children about Native American history and culture and giving them a better understanding of those who are native to the area is essential, she said. For her, it is essential to show them “that we are all equal”.
Ishi was widely regarded as the âlast wild Indianâ in America. He lived most of his life in isolation until 1911, when he was 50, and emerged in a barn and corral two miles from downtown Oroville. Ishi was collected by anthropologists from the University of California at Berkeley. They studied him and hired him as a janitor. He has lived most of the past five years in a college building in San Francisco, dying of tuberculosis in 1916.
For years, she taught students about the Native American tribes of the Northern State, including Ishi, Biggs-Weiss said. Teaching about Native Americans is a mandatory learning experience for third-grade students in the state.
ToBiggs-Weiss, Ishi’s life is an important story to share with students and to ask tough questions about the treatment of Native Americans over the years and to make students think and realize this story of a man who lived only a few hours. far from them.
Book a labor of love
For her, it was important to have a book for elementary school children to learn about Ishi’s remarkable life, so Biggs-Weiss went to work on a book that she hopes will serve as a tool. learning for students beyond Jackson’s classroom.
She self-published the book in 2019, but when COVID hit she didn’t have much time to promote it in schools, she said.
This month is the first time she can go to a class and teach from her book.
Delphi student Arianna Sales said she learned a lot about Ishi and Native American culture from Biggs-Weiss and her book. âI think it’s cool how she found all the information about Ishi and then turned it into her own words,â she said.
Student Delila Longmore said Biggs-Weiss does a great job bringing this story to life for the class. “She’s really sweet, and it’s great fun to watch her tell us about Ishi and how to turn acorns into flour. Ishi lived like her ancestors did what they could from nature.”
Biggs-Weiss teaches piano in after-school programs at Delphic and Willow Creek Elementary.
Delphic Principal Jami Thomas said Biggs-Weiss is a wonderful resource. “Kids love Cindy. She engages them with her knowledge and enthusiasm, and the kids feed off of it.”
Finding out more about Ishi fascinated and engaged his students, who posed many interesting questions to Biggs-Weiss, Jackson said.
On the first day of class, November 12, students made flour from acorns using a process that has been used by Native American tribes for generations.
They will make cookies from the flour by the end of the last class.
Ishi, âwas very willing to learn and share,â Biggs-Weiss said, and wanted to tell the story of his people. He was kind, very polite and liked to have fun, she said. Biggs-Weiss said he taught people a lot about his culture and language as he adjusted to life in a totally different culture that he was not used to. He eventually wore white men’s clothes and liked the pockets where he liked to store his tools and tobacco.
The Ishi Wilderness Area is located in the Lassen National Forest, approximately 20 miles from Red Bluff. It is believed to be his tribe’s ancestral lands and is named after him, according to the Lassen National Forest website.
âA Man Named Ishi: A Picture and Coloring Bookâ is available for purchase on Amazon and at the Siskiyou County Museum at 910 S Main St in Yreka.
Bill Choy covers sports and general news for the Siskiyou Daily News / Mount Shasta Herald / USA Today Network. Follow him on Twitter at@SDNBillChoy. Email Bill at [email protected] Support local journalism by subscribing today.