OCTOBER 19, 1853


Juana Maria, AKA “the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island” (her actual name is unknown), was the last member of the Nicoleño, who lived on San Nicolas, a largely-barren member of the Southern Channel Islands, lying about 60 miles off the California (CA) coast. In 1814, a Russian-American Company brig brought Native Alaskan otter hunters who attacked and killed most of the islanders. In late 1835, a schooner sent to remove the remaining Nicoleño, left to avoid a storm, stranding Juana Maria. Her legend led George Nidever, a Santa Barbara fur trapper, to send expeditions to find her. On the 3rd attempt in the autumn of 1853, they found her. Taken to the Santa Barbara Mission, she was only able to communicate with the last few members of her tribe. She marveled at horses, European clothing, and food. Allowed to stay with Nidever, she died from dysentery in Garey, CA, just 7 weeks after arriving on the mainland. Scott O’Dell’s children’s novel Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960) was inspired by her story.

  “The Tragic Story Of Juana Maria, The Lone Woman Of San Nicolas Island,“ All That’s Interesting.com.  Retrieved 4/16/2022, The Tragic Story Of Juana Maria, The Lone Woman Of San Nicolas Island (allthatsinteresting.com)
Photo:  Edwin J. Hayward and Henry W. Muzzall, circa 1853.  Public Domain.

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