The Story of Juanamaria
When Juanamaria School was dedicated in 1962 as one of the two schools in the Mound School District, the School Board wanted to choose an historic name. Many names were suggested and the name Juanamaria was finally selected.
Our school is named after Juana Maria, the heroine of Scott O'Dell's novel, Island of the Blue Dolphins. It is a fictionalized account based on facts from Accounts of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island. Through discussion with Mr. O'Dell and other researchers, Principal Aline Aubert discovered the fascinating story of the woman who came to be known as Juana Maria.
During the 19th century, a tribe of Indians lived 70 miles offshore on San Nicolas Island. Although the tribe was peaceful, they were often ravaged by hunters who invaded the island. To protect the few remaining Indians, a group of Santa Barbara missionaries attempted to rescue all the Indians.
According to the story, the woman who became known as Juana Maria realized her little brother was missing after the ship had set sail. In spite of the efforts of the priests, she jumped overboard and swam ashore to search for him. Because of an approaching storm, the captain was unable to turn the ship around to rescue them.
Back on the island, the young boy was soon killed by a pack of wild dogs, leaving Juana Maria completely alone. Being a woman, she did not have the skills to hunt and fish because those were traditional jobs of the men. However, she forged ahead, finding a spring of fresh water, carving tools from rocks and bones, building a dwelling from whale bones to protect herself from the dogs, constructing a boat in which she planned to follow her missing family, and learning to hunt and fish.
According to the story, Juana Maria lived alone on the island for 18 years. She was finally rescued, and the story ends as she is being taken to the Santa Barbara Mission.
It is known that Father Gonzalez of the Santa Barbara Mission befriended her after her rescue. She was then named Juana Maria by the missionaries, who found her to be a charming, gracious, and cheerful person. They found that they could only communicate with her through signs because by that time her language was a lost art and her fellow tribe was widely scattered.
We remember this brave and selfless young lady and we are proud that our school is named Juanamaria after her.