Object photography

View of the artwork on display in 'All My Life: Contemporary Works by Native American Artists'; Peabody Essex Museum; August 5, 2005 through March 28, 2010.
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Object description

  • David Bradley (White Earth Ojibwe, birth 1954)
  • Ishi: The Last Wild Indian, 04/26/2001
  • Mixed media on board
  • Minnesota, United States (Lives and works in American Southwest)
  • H: 30 in, W: 40 in, D: 1 1/2 in (H: 76.2 cm, W: 101.6 cm, D: 3.8 cm)
  • Gift from James and Margie Krebs Collection of Native American Art, 2001
  • E301825
  • Depicts Ishi, last survivor of his Yahi tribe
  • Reflects on Ishi's life as subject of anthropological fascination

In 1911, two anthropologists "befriended" Ishi, after his tribe was decimated by massacre and disease. He worked for them as a living museum exhibit, demonstrating arrow-making and documenting Yahi language, songs, and stories, until his death in 1916. Against his wishes, his brain was sent to the Smithsonian Institution. In 2000, dictated by legislation, his brain was buried with his remains. Here, the artist reflects on early anthropological practices and Ishi's resilience in the face of profound personal and cultural loss.


LL corner in ink 'David Bradley copyright 2001'


This collage presents the life of Ishi, the last Yahi-speaking person of the Yana culture of California. Two images of Ishi, one in black and white and one in color, dominate the upper right corner of the painting. To the upper left, the image of a large fish sits vertically along the canvas edge. Below this, various depictions of California dominate, including a license plate and a state map. In the bottom left corner a photograph of Ishi and an anthropologist is in black and white. The lower right side of the work displays various images of Ishi involved in traditional tasks such as hunting. The image of a large brain sits next the the word 'Smithsonian', which is spelled out vertically along the right edge.

Exhibition History

  • Intersections, Native American Art in a New Light, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.; June 24, 2006 through November 27, 2011
  • Uncommon Legacies: Native American Art from the Peabody Essex Museum, Washington State Historical Society; October 11, 2005 through February 09, 2006
  • All of My Life, Contemporary Works by Native American Artists, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.; August 05, 2005 through March 28, 2010


Peabody Essex Museum