The original inhabitants of Chico were the Mechoopda Maidu Native Americans.
The City of Chico was founded in 1860 by John Bidwell, a member of one of the first wagon trains to reach California in 1843.
Chico was home to a significant Chinese American community when it was first incorporated, but arsonists burned Chico's Chinatown in February 1886, driving Chinese Americans out of town.
Chico is located at the northeast edge of the Sacramento Valley, one of the richest agricultural areas in the world. The Sierra Nevada mountains lie to the East, with Chico's city limits venturing several miles into the foothills.
You can learn more about Ishi in Ishi, Last of His Tribe. When he emerged from the hills to join "civilization," it wasn't far from Chico.
Anyway, she Googled "Ishi statue" and came up with these hits:
The Flintknapping Ishi Memorial Statue Project
and from Newspaper Rock:
Good reasons for Ishi statue
So she called me to talk about her idea.
No Ishi statues yet?
Judging by the search results, it seems no one has ever done a serious statue of Ishi. All I could find was this "Concrete statue, life-size, of Ishi, by Van Zant" from the 1960s:
I'd say this is more a piece of folk art than a real memorial to Ishi.
Anyway, we talked and said encouraging things. Could be a real tribute to California's Indians and a boost to local tourism. Make sure the area's Indians are involved. Perhaps a gaming tribe would be willing to sponsor it. Etc.
Although I didn't offer any brilliant ideas, she thanked me for my support. She said she'd write a proposal for the statue, and that was that.
Thoughts on an Ishi statue
Here are my thoughts on the proposed statue:
Certainly the artist should make it look lifelike. We have photographs of Ishi, so there's no excuse for making it a generic Indian.
The temptation probably will be to show Ishi in his traditional clothing of skins. Perhaps with his arms outstretched as if he's praying or welcoming tourists. But I'd suggest doing something more creative:
In short, don't just give us a traditional Indian standing there stoically. Use the artwork to send a message about the continued existence and relevance of Indian cultures.
The Newspaper Rock connection
As I said, I didn't contribute much to the woman's idea. The posting she found was an excerpt from a column in the Union newspaper of Nevada County, California. When I posted it, I didn't add any comments.
And yet I did my job. I disseminated the article to a wider audience. I preserved it in my blog where it would get a high Google ranking. I don't think the woman would've found the column otherwise.
Now I've posted some thoughts to the subject. This posting also will get a high Google ranking. The next time someone searches for "Ishi statue," these thoughts will add to the conservation.
What this demonstrates is the education value of blogging--something critic Michael Cooke doesn't understand. Most Americans don't have a clue who Ishi is. Now I've exposed a few thousand of them to the idea of honoring him with a statue. Some of them will remember and think about this the next time the subject arises.
Don't forget that each Google search is the tip of the iceberg. For all we know, a thousand students are Googling "Ishi" at this moment. Anyone who comes across this discussion may disseminate the ideas further.
So the blog serves the same purpose as the statue will, if it's ever built. They're both about raising awareness, educating, and changing the terms of the debate. When people realize there's more to US history than Columbus, the Pilgrims, and the Founding Fathers, they'll start paying attention to Indian issues. The blog and the statue may inspire little Johnny or Janie to protect tribal sovereignty when they grow up.