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California Newspapers Interview Ancient Indian

No one knew the exact age of Sargent Sambo, but the aged Indian was coherent when interviewed in 1961 by Northern California newspapers.  He said “Sambo” was his father’s name and “Sargent” came from a soldier, but his Indian name was Ah Kee Ah Humpy.

Believed to be around 110 years old when he died in 1963, Sargent Sambo was one of the last hereditary chiefs of the Shasta people and speaker of their Kikutsik language.

He recalled jumping as a boy into the freezing Shasta River and warming up in a nearby sweathouse. He said when he saw an airplane for the first time, like a roaring, big eagle with spread feathers, “I was so excited I could not work all day.”

Sargent Sambo became a ranch hand and later a cook at the Hornbrook Hotel.  He said his one regret was killing two cousins seeking revenge from his father.  One survived, only to be killed later by his grandmother.  She taught Sargent Sambo ancient stories and traditions.

He became an “Indian doctor” who predicted the weather and the future.  His biography file at the Siskiyou County Museum lists “Indian Superstition” as his religion.

Sources: Jacobs, Cecile Adair, Sacramento Bee, “Indian, 94, Aides UC Study, Recalls Oldtime Slayings,” date unknown; From the Information Files at the Siskiyou County Museum: Newspaper name unknown, ”Sergeant Sambo Credits His 110 years to Indian Living.” July 1960; Sacramento Bee, Shasta Indian Chief, 105, is Living Link with Dimly Remembered Era,” October 8, 1961; Superior California News, “Siskiyouan, 111 or 107, Credits Single Status,” October 5, 1962, pp. C1; California “Pioneer Record”, Siskiyou County Museum, 910 South Main Street, Yreka, CA 96097.

Lisa Gioia is the director of the Siskiyou County Museum in Yreka, California. She is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with a B.A. in anthropology (1997), a Master’s Degree in History with a minor in public history (2008) and specialized in oral histories.