The Story About Olive Oatman and Her Famous Tattoo Will Make Your Skin Crawl
There are simply some individuals who have a life story that warrants a feature film, and one of those people is Olive Oatman. The struggles and hardships she went through in her life (and the fame they ultimately brought her) are legendary.
Olive Oatman was born in Illinois in 1837 and as a child (13 years old) her and her family joined a wagon train and headed south. It took them almost a year to reach their destination of New Mexico. Unfortunately, the climate and area weren’t what they wanted, so they continued on into an area now known as Arizona.
But before the Oatman’s traveled out of New Mexico, they were told that the land ahead was not only barren but that the Indians of the area were extremely hostile and dangerous. The Oatman’s disregarded these warnings, but they would soon wish they didn’t.
On their fourth day of travel, the family was approached by a group of Native Americans who wanted food and tobacco, but something went wrong, and this encounter became famously known as the “Oatman Massacre”. Of the 9 family members only 15-year-old Lorenzo, 14-year-old Olive and 7-year-old Mary Ann were alive. The two sisters were then abducted.
After being abducted, they were brought back to camp where they were kept as slaves and were often beaten and mistreated. The were responsible for menial tasks such as moving water, gathering food and more. Much of what happened during their year of captivity was unknown.
Eventually, a Mohave Indian tribe traded for the two girls and they moved to a different camp. This new tribe treated them such better and they almost felt like part of the family. In fact, not once during her “captivity” with Mohave did she ever try to reach out to a large group of white people to come save here.
Sadly, a drought hit the region (in about 1855 or so) which took the lives of her beloved sister Mary Ann (who was around 10) and numerous Mohave. But eventually, when Oatman was 19, she was saved when people got word that she was with the Mohave, and they returned back to civilization, largely unharmed, to a crowd of cheering people. But something was much different about her from when she was originally abducted over half a decade earlier.
As is tradition, in the Mohave Indians, both she and her sister were tattooed on their arms and given a distinct tattoo on their chin to show they were a member of the tribe. Being as not many young white girls are in the Mohave tribes, these tattoos and the stories of Olive made her front page news across the country and made her famous.
A book was even written about her which was a best seller at the time and the royalties paid for her and her brother Lorenzo to go to college. Also, several movies and TV characters are said to be named after her.