In Memorium: Juana Maria

At the end of Island of the Blue Dolphins, (SPOILER ALERT) the main character named Karana is rescued from the island after years of surviving there on her own.

The story continued…

The real woman who inspired the 1960 book by Scott O’Dell became widely known as “The Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island.” As there were no other surviving members of her tribe at that time (1853) and no record of their language, translating her name and true story proved nearly impossible, despite several attempts.

A priest at the Santa Barbara Mission christened her “Juana Maria.” According to records, she greatly enjoyed the mainland, specifically horses, clothing and food.

Here’s the part that really gets me: After 18 years surviving alone on a Channel Island, Juana Maria only lived seven more weeks (the cause of death I’ve seen cited credited her death to an illness due to the extreme change in her diet, although I find that hard to believe). They buried her in an unmarked grave at the Mission in the family plot of the man (George Nidever) who rescued her.

Juana Maria died October 19, 1853. 7 weeks earlier (49 days) would be about September 1. So in honoring the date of her rescue, and to give her a little more than the plaque established in 1928, here is a virtual headstone:


San Nicolas Island, 61 miles from the mainland, is currently controlled and occupied by the United States Navy, and is not included as one of the islands in Channel Islands National Park.

There is plenty more information about Juana Maria available. Here is where I plan to go next:

A video series from 2012

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