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Petition to Cancel the Play, Ishi: The Last of the Yahi

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*The American Indian Graduate Association was unsuccessful in canceling any of the shows, but will keep the petition active for people to make comments.* This is a formal petition to address the offensive, insensitive, and uncritical play Ishi: The Last of the Yahi, which opened March 2, 2012 on the UC Berkeley campus and is scheduled for more shows this coming weekend. This play, which misrepresents Ishi as a batterer, murderer, and incestuous rapist, was previously performed in 2008. We are left wondering how something so controversial could have been approved for full production without any Native consultation. As Robert Fri, Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, underscores in repatriating Ishi’s remains to his descendants, “‘Contrary to commonly held belief, Ishi was not the last of his kind.’” The play makes no pretense about it being anything more than a work of fiction based on fact, but is unapologetic about its poetic license and retelling of an imaginary history, which suggests that "Maybe Manifest Destiny was a two-way street” and "Copulate and rape are not different words in Yahi.” We take issue with the play fetishizing violence to Native characters’ bodies, and in particular the bodies of Native women. The histories of violence to Native communities are not in the past, but ongoing. One of three Native women today is raped in her lifetime with 80% of these sexual assaults committed by non-Natives. The fact that Ishi refused to share his Yahi name and asked in his last words to “leave me in peace as I shall leave you, too, in peace,” makes such gross misrepresentations and exploitations unacceptable and disrespectful to his wishes. With these things in mind, we urge the UC Berkeley Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies Department to meet the following conditions: 1. We request that all UC Berkeley performances of Ishi: The Last Yahi be canceled. 2. We request that Ishi: The Last Yahi not be shown without major revisions and the consultation of Native communities. 3. We request that when the subject matter of a play or production concerns underrepresented communities, these communities are consulted and collaborated with. These recommendations will help to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion and a safer environment for all UC Berkeley students.


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