The Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island

“Sifting Facts from Fiction: The Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island,” by Steven J. Schwartz. Steve’s talk will recap what is known of the true story of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island and will present the latest archival and archaeological findings. This is the true story behind the popular novel, Island of the Blue Dolphins. Much new information has come to light in the last few years; recently discovered Russian documents add to our understanding of the circumstances of Lone Woman’s abandonment, the tragic start of the story; on-going archival research into church and census records document the history of the rest of the tribe; new historical research adds to our understanding of her life in Santa Barbara, the tragic end of the story; and exciting new archaeological findings are adding details about her isolated life on the island, where she lived, how she survived. Steve has walked where she walked, is one of the leading experts on the story, and has many insights from his 25 years of experience on the island.

Recently retired, Steve was the Navy’s senior archaeologist on San Nicolas for the last 25 years. Due to this unique position, he has become one of the leading experts on the Lone Woman story. Southern California born and bred, Steve grew up the LA area. He worked for US Army Corps of Engineers office in Los Angeles throughout the 1980s; overseeing archaeological and historical projects throughout the Southwest. Steve made the move to the Navy at Point Mugu in 1989 and quickly established an archaeology program for San Nicolas Island, developing a strong working relationship with Cal State Los Angeles; among other universities. During his time with the Navy, Steve has seen to the complete survey of all archaeological sites on the island, the preparation of various background and management studies, and excavated at dozens of sites. He also has a keen interest in the history of the island and has overseen studies of the various historic themes from sheep ranching to the Cold War. Steve’s other interests include rock art research. He has conducted extensive surveys for rock art sites at the Naval base at China Lake, and has worked a number of smaller projects throughout the Desert West. His most exotic work was in Australia where he worked with an aboriginal elder to record the stories that accompany the rock art in the Wardaman lands. Steve loves to travel and has travelled extensively throughout the Middle East, Europe, Central and South America, and Australia. His most exotic trip took him deep into the Sahara.

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