The Lone Woman and Last Indians
This digital archive collects, transcribes, annotates, and maps more than 450 nineteenth- and twentieth-century documents relevant to the story of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island. This Nicoleña was isolated alone on the most remote of the California Channel Islands between 1835-53, an event triggered by a massacre resulting from the international sea otter trade and then by the Spanish policy of reducción, or the in-gathering of Native tribes to Catholic Missions. The story of the Lone Woman, widely known in the nineteenth century, is perhaps best remembered today in the version Scott O’Dell fictionalized in his 1960 children’s novel, Island of the Blue Dolphins. In O’Dell’s Newbery-winning book, the Lone Woman is reimagined as the teenaged Karana.
The archive presents both a digital surrogate of each document (positioned in the left pane) and an annotated transcription (positioned in the right pane). Each document was marked up with TEI so as to encode key people, places, groups, and sailing vessels, as well as cultural tropes such as the Lone Woman figuring as a "girl Robinson Crusoe" and as "the last of her tribe." Additionally, TEI encoding enables users to move between documents when they are referenced in another text. The project was developed using the Django web framework with a MySQL database back-end. To transform the documents from their TEI encoded state into a human readable webpage XSLT was used. The links generated through the XSLT transformation enable users to view documents in tandem with contextualizing maps and annotations. The georeferencing software MapTiler was used to add digital copies of historic maps of the California region to a Google Maps base engine.
Documents in the Lone Woman and Last Indians Digital Archive were acquired between June 2013 and June 2015. Published and unpublished bibliographies on the Lone Woman were used as the starting point in searching for additional material. A list of key words appearing in these accounts (e.g., cormorant, lost woman, female Crusoe) was used to query national, state, institutional, and academic databases, including the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America, the California Digital Newspaper Collection, the New York Times, and JSTOR. Relevant articles were identified, acquired, and transcribed. All internal references to other accounts of the Lone Woman were pursued. The search was constrained by the state of periodical digitization, including the accuracy of OCR (optical character recognition), at the time. Some twentieth-century accounts acquired could not be published due to copyright restrictions. Undoubtedly, many more accounts of the Lone Woman were published and remain to be found by future researchers.
The digital archive seeks to facilitate research on the Lone Woman as both a historical figure and as a mythic representation of the American Indian, a reimagining central to US nation-building.
Editor: Sara L. Schwebel, PhD
Research and Development Team
Digital Collections Manager: Rachel M. A. Manuszak
Lead Programmer: Tyler Encke
Senior Research Consultants: Susan L. Morris, Duncan Buell, PhD
Data Visualization: Molly Carlson, Sydney Cowart, Aysegul Kramer Design: Bonnie Harris-Lowe, Aidan Zanders Document Acquisition and Transcription: Caroline Blount, Sydney Cowart, Hannah Davis, Georgia Froman, Paige Kuester, Carina Leaman, Alexis Michalos, Tyler Muehl Document Encoding: Paige Kuester, Ainsley McWaters, Tyler Muehl, Rose Steptoe Maps: Phillip J. Allan, Molly Carlson, Sydney Cowart Programming: Molly Carlson, Eric D. Gonzalez Research and Writing: Paige Kuester, Carina Leaman, Elizabeth A. Matthews, Tyler Muehl, Rose Steptoe Scope Notes: Paige Kuester
Financial support for this project was generously provided by: two University of South Carolina Provost Humanities Grants, the University of South Carolina Department of English, the Center for Digital Humanities at the the Magellan Scholar Program at the the Channel Islands National Park, the Student Conservation Association/AmeriCorps internship program, the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a Carnegie-Whitney Grant from the American Library Association, Richard H. Dittman, and the Children’s Literature Association.
Banner image credit: detail from Louis Chorlis’ 1817 illustration of an Aleut in a kayak off the coast of St. Paul (Alaska) with sea lions on the beach and a large sailing ship in background. Alaska State Library, Louis Chorlis Collection, 139-48.