Ishi was the last Yahi Indian in California. The rest of his tribe and family had been wiped out by white settlers in the 1860s during the California gold rush. Ishi had lived alone in the mountains for 40 years. He came down out of the mountains and was found near Oroville in 1911.

Alfred Kroeber, an anthropologist at Berkeley, welcomed the chance to study with Ishi, and became good friends with him. Ishi lived the rest of his life at the Museum of Anthropology in San Francisco. Ishi lived only four years after his surrender to white society. Theodora Kroeber, Alfred's wife, wrote three books about Ishi. Ishi in Two Worlds: The Story of the Last Wild Indian in North America was her first, and was very popular. Then she wrote Ishi, the Last Yahi: A Documentary History and a children's book called Ishi, Last of his Tribe. There is also a movie about Ishi, based on Ishi, the Last Yahi.

Ursula Kroeber LeGuin is the daughter of Alfred and Theodora, and the influence of Ishi can be seen in several of her works. Always Coming Home is the book in which I see most clearly the effect that Ishi may have had on Ms. LeGuin. Ursula LeGuin, best known as a science fiction writer, has a deep interest in things native American, and speaks publicly on related topics.