ELA 5: The Lost Woman of San Nicolas Island

Check out this video to hear the story of a woman who survived for 18 years on an island without wifi and without going completely bonkers and trying to build a coconut radio. We can't say we would have been as resilient.

5th GradeLanguage Arts
Elementary and Middle School5th Grade
LanguageEnglish Language

Transcript

00:24

…but let's rewind.

00:26

What if had to stay there for eighteen whole years?

00:29

…Sure, you might get pretty good at building sandcastles, but still. [Man stood with tall sand castles]

00:33

Sounds a little bit more like a prison than paradise…

00:36

This situation – minus the sandcastles – is basically what happened to Juana Maria when

00:40

she was stranded on San Nicolas Island in 1835.

00:44

Her tribe, the Nicoleño, had lived on the island for thousands of years as hunters and [Coop teaching about the Nicoleno tribe]

00:48

gatherers who respected the land and its inhabitants.

00:51

Unfortunately, in the early nineteenth century a group of Native Alaskans arrived, and they

00:56

weren't quite as respectful as the Nicoleño. [Alaskans arrive at island on a ship]

00:58

Unless you happen to think that slaughtering seals is the height of politeness.

01:02

Which…it's not.

01:03

We recommend flowers and a greeting card. [Man brings flowers and greeting card to a seal]

01:05

But these newcomers weren't just bad to the seals.

01:08

They also killed many of the Nicoleño, and took Nicoleño women as slaves.

01:12

With all this new danger on the island, the Nicoleño decided to leave, seeking refuge

01:16

on the mainland.

01:17

Because even if you get seasick pretty easily, a few hours on a boat is definitely worth [Man vomits in the sea whilst on a boat]

01:22

getting away from people who want to kill or enslave you.

01:25

However, in this rush to escape, Juana Maria was left behind.

01:29

There are a few different stories to explain how this could've happened: some say that

01:32

a storm arose, which caused the ship's crew to panic and head for the mainland to avoid [Tribe riding in a boat in a storm]

01:36

crashing against the island…

01:38

…while another story is that as the ship was leaving, she realized her younger brother

01:41

had been left behind, and she jumped off to save him. [Juana Maria runs back to shore]

01:44

But whatever the exact reason, Juana Maria was definitely left behind.

01:48

And that's how she spent the next eighteen years of her life…and without wifi too! [Juana playing cards with a aseal]

01:52

But help eventually came!

01:54

After a few failed attempts, a hunter named George Nidever did manage to find her, and

01:58

bring her to the mainland, where she was disappointed to learn there still wasn't wifi…we guess [George and Juana jump off ship onto mainland]

02:03

it hadn't been invented yet.

02:04

However, historical records show that she was fascinated with the new world around her,

02:09

and was charmed by horses, European clothing, and all the plentiful food around her.

02:13

Unfortunately, this rescue story doesn't have the happiest of endings…only seven weeks

02:18

after reaching the mainland, Juana Maria died of dysentery. [Gravestone of Juana Maria]

02:21

And if you're thinking to yourself, "someone should write a story about her," then think

02:24

no further! …well, no, keep thinking…thinking is a good thing.

02:27

What we meant is, there's already a book that's largely based on Juana Maria's life.

02:31

If you've ever read Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell, then yup, you've read a tale [Island of the Blue Dolphins on a book shelf]

02:35

that was inspired by Juana Maria.

02:37

And if you haven't, go check it out!

02:39

It might make for some good beachside reading.

02:41

Just…try not to stay at that beach for eighteen years, okay? [Man with sun burn appears]

02:44

We can't imagine how sunburned you'd be…