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Film Catalog » Subject Areas » American Studies » Bear's Hiding Place: Ishi's Last Refuge

Bear's Hiding Place: Ishi's Last Refuge

Bear's Hiding Place: Ishi's Last Refuge - Image Produced by Jed Riffe.
17 min. Color. 1998.
Available as: VHS and DVD
Captioned: No
Catalog #: 0093
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Sale Price: $175.00 Buy VHS Buy DVD

This fascinating documentary journey into the past follows a contemporary archaeological expedition to the remote sunken gardens of Deer Creek Canyon. near Mount Lassen, in northern California. This is the second attempt by the team to find and confirm the location of Wowunupo'mu Tetna, or Bear's Hiding Place, the last refuge of the Yahi and of Ishi before his dramatic appearance in 1911.

The archaeological team is attempting to understand how Ishi and the few surviving Yahi adapted to the invasion of their homeland by non-Indians, which began with the Gold Rush of 1849. How had they survived as a small band, following the extermination of almost all their people? Other than concealment, what did this thicket of poison oak and bay trees, perched on the side of a steep cliff covered with talus slopes, offer to sustain the remaining Yahi? How long did the Yahi hide here?

The answers to these and other intriguing questions are revealed in the course of the expedition's difficult and dangerous journey. This outstanding short film will spark discussion in a variety of courses in archaeology, anthropology, Native American studies, and American history. It was produced by Jed Riffe.


"Fills a major gap in the information available to all those who will never have the opportunity to visit the site. Looking at some of the scenes in the video makes it clear why the Yahi were able to survive into the 20th century and continue to practice their culture. This is an excellent portrayal of the location and its importance to the Yahi and to anthropology. It will be of interest to a wide variety of classes in anthropology, archaeology, and Native American studies." -- Jerald Jay Johnson, Chair, Dept. of Anthropology, Calif. State Univ., Sacramento

"It is refreshing to see a documentary that acknowledges how Indian peoples creatively used elements of non-Indian culture to survive, rather than trying to set them in a pristine traditional Indian culture. When you look at the material culture inventory left by the Yahi at Bear's Hiding Place, it is clear that they made new uses of new technologies. The documentary shows Indian people being creative and adaptive and surviving." -- Sherrie Smith-Ferri (Dry Creek Pomo), Ph.D., Director, Grace Hudson Museum


  • American Anthropological Assn. honoree
  • American Indian Film Festival honoree



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