Understanding Tribal Fates

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Science  18 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6058, pp. 911-912
DOI: 10.1126/science.1213787

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On 29 August 1911, an exhausted, emaciated, terrified Indian was found in California's foothills. Later known as Ishi, he was the last survivor of the Yahi tribe, and the last “wild” stone-tool-using hunter/gatherer in the lower 48 states of the United States (1). This centennial year of Ishi's emergence is an occasion to reflect on the varied fates of the hundreds of Native American tribes that existed in North America in 1492 C.E. (24). Many tribes decreased in numbers, disappeared, or lost their homeland, language, or cultural identity. The Navajos are a striking exception, which may illuminate the range of outcomes observed when indigenous peoples encounter modern influences elsewhere in the world.