Have you ever heard the story of Olive Oatman and her sister Mary Ann, two pioneer Mormon girls who lived with Native Americans for five years?
Their fascinating tale begins with the Oatman family, who wanted to follow one of the Morman movements, the Brewsterites, to California after the death of Joseph Smith in 1850.
On their way to California, the families somehow split up, and the Oatmans were left to travel through Arizona alone. En route, they were attacked by members of a local Native American tribe. It is assumed that it was members of the Yavapais tribe.
The majority of the family was killed except for sisters Olive and Mary Ann, who were taken away and treated as slaves by the Yavapais. They were forced to work for them for a year until the tribe decided to trade them to a Mohave group.
It was with the Mohaves that the girls were treated more like members of the tribe. They were no longer slaves and even had their chins and upper arms tattooed with cactus ink to indicate that they were tribal members.
During their time with the Mohave tribe, Olive and Mary Ann were able to do as they pleased. They lived in a very beautiful area, so different from their time with the Yavapais.
The girls were taught how to grow their own crops and were adopted into a family. They strongly bonded with the wife and daughter, Aespaneo and Topeka.
Olive and Mary Ann became so accustomed to their new lives with the Mohave tribe that when a group of 200 white railroad workers came to speak to the Mohave tribe in 1854, the girls did not reveal that they had originally been abducted and never asked the men for help. Tragically, around 1855, after a terrible drought, Mary Ann died of starvation.
When she was around 19-years-old, a messenger arrived at the Mohave village and requested that Olive be sent to Fort Yuma in California.
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