Here is a depiction of Olive Oatman’s capture in a text from the time.
For over 60 miles, the Oatman girls were led through the arid Sonoran Desert to the tribe’s village.
The girls spent over a year as slaves for the tribe, performing menial tasks until members of the Mojave tribe picked up the girls after trading them for goods.
This is where the girls received traditional chin tattoos worn commonly by members of the tribe. This was a major sign of respect, though, as the tattoos were a symbol of tribe membership. The girls were going to be protected by the Mojave people. A woman, Aespaneo, took Olive and her sister in as her own. Unfortunately, Mary Ann passed away soon after a particularly severe drought.
It wasn’t long after that Americans at the local Fort Yuma heard of Olive’s “capture” and demanded she be returned.
Here is a photo from shortly after her handover. After spending several years as a Mojave, Olive didn’t want to be returned; she had found a home. Unfortunately, this was not enough to allow her to stay with the tribe for any longer.
After returning to American civilization, she went on several speaking tours to tell everyone about her experience.
Many believe that she was pressured to depict her “captors” as savages, even though there is evidence that she didn’t hold that belief at all.
When given the opportunity, Olive traveled to New York to speak with Irataba, a Mojave dignitary. Reports indicate that she caught up with him in a conversation that was in Mojave language. Regardless of this apparently positive interaction, any word of sexual or romantic relationships she may have had during her time with the Mojave had to be kept secret.
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