Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Stuff you missed in History: Olive Oatman

Stuff you missed in History podcast here.

Her Mojave nickname was "Spantsa" which meant "rotten/sore vagina." It was, apparently, a term of endearment that she was okay with--the tribe is know for a dirty sense of humor.

Although there's no way to know for sure, all accounts of her story state that there was no sexual contact--but I'm not sure it would have been discussed or recounted if it had happened. From what I've read it was a reference to differences in hygiene habits between her and the Mojave women. They were pretty sexually liberal as a people, though.

Regarding the hygiene theory, that was because the Mojave bathed daily and were very focused on hygeine--at that time, White settlers did not.
In the book "Violent Encounters: Interviews on Western Massacres" there is also a theory that the term actually translates to "rotten womb" and referred to her being infertile. I have no idea if this is accurate either (it seems odd given that the nickname was apparently kind of an in-joke for her tribe). However, she never had her own kids and later adopted, so it's possible she was infertile. -

In the 1880s, the “tattooed captive” became a popular circus theme. “Their stories turned, provocatively, on the notion that people of color could transform whites into people of color,” Margot Mifflin writes in The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman