“ISHI: THE ARCHIVE PERFORMANCE” is a new work written and performed by James Luna, renowned Native American, visual and performance artist. 

In 1911, an Indian man walked into the small northern California town of Oroville. His sudden appearance inspired fright, laughter, and pity from the populace. The civic leaders had the foresight to contact an anthropologist who came to the conclusion that Ishi indeed was the last of his tribe. It was decided that for his welfare and for the advancement of science that he would occupy the Museum on the University of California Berkeley’s campus, where he lived out his remaining years as a living specimen. 

The archives suggest there is more to this story, which has never been told. Believing that the story of Ishi is one that should be remembered and hold an important place in the history and cultures of California and that there is much to learn from him and his plight. Mr. Luna has created a performance that explores this significant life. Many questions about Ishi’s experience, both mysterious and uncomfortable are evoked by this performance. 

On some questions Ishi remained silent, perhaps because of language barriers (as no one could completely translate his language) and so there are many questions remain which only he could have answered. Perhaps he could have but chose not to, an “ole Indian” trick? In any event Ishi’s story remains as a grim reminder of Western fascination with Indigenous cultures and its detrimental disregard of humans, forgetting that we are all sentient beings. 

James believes that the Ishi performance has manifested itself at this time in his life, but it’s been waiting inside him for years and has now made its appearance with a vengeance! He rates this new work with his much-lauded “Artifact Piece”. As in life, Art matters have come full circle. 


Ishi Sells his Trinkets.jpg

“Native Stories” is the new powerful performance work by renowned artist James Luna. Through the lens of contemporary American Indian life, Luna takes audiences on a road trip, guiding them through the landscapes of the new and perilous political climate. His journey begins with weaving stories of fantasy, futuristic tales and personal anecdotes that tap into the sprits within all of us. Told with irony and humor, he infuses past and new works, demonstrating that history informs our present. The scenic back roads we traverse are rich, layered, complicated and sometimes dangerous. Sit back and enjoy, learn and experience the ride as Luna maps the detours, highways and byways in search of hope for the future.

When I say, “Our histories inform our present” what I mean is that through personal experience, trauma, relationships, etc.- all the moments that we experience in life shape our current reality.