January 1, 2013
'Island of the Blue Dolphins'
woman's cave believed found
Condensed by Native Village
California:Island of Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell is the story of a young Native American woman who becomes stranded on one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. She lived there by herself for almost 20 years
Many readers don't realize the story is based on a real person. And now there may be physical evidence, too.
When Lone Woman went to the island in 1835, California was part of Mexico. Spanish, Russian, and American sailors hunted sea otters along its shores.
When she was found by Captain George Nidever in 1853, California was part of the United States.
There were no longer any of her people -- the Nicoleños -- to listen to her story, but Lone Woman managed to tell part of it in sign language. Sadly, she died at the Santa Barbara mission within seven weeks of being found. Now others are trying to complete the story for her.
struggled to find the cave's location. An
1879 map of San Nicolas Island shows a big black dot
on the southwest coast. Next
to it were the words "Indian Cave."
The spot's exact location was an open question until
a surveyor provided compass bearings leading to a shallow
depression beneath a rock
It was evident they'd started to dig out a cave filled in with sand from the fierce San Nicolas winds. Near its mouth, they found two sets of initials etched in rock and a date: Sept. 11, 1911. Schwartz figures that at some point it had become "an impromptu fishing camp," as suggested by a layer of bones and shells in the same area.
Lone Woman, who may have lived in that same cave, had been skinning a seal when she was found. She shared some roasted roots with the Nidever.
Above the rolling dunes, Nidever had found a hut Lone Woman built from whale bones and brush. But that was merely a windbreak, Schwartz believes. He thinks the Nicoleños probably lived in more substantial homes, but tribal taboos may have kept females from learning to build them.
Woman probably lived in a cave.
Nidever turned down offers to display her in San Francisco.
After seven weeks, she died of
adobe house — Juana Maria's final home — has long
since been razed.
Village © Gina Boltz
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