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080619 Woman of San Nicolas

A portrait of "Juana Maria” based on original descriptions of her appearance and attire.

The Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum invites the public to attend their themed Back to School Open House on Aug. 27, and learn more about the legendary Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island.

At 5 p.m. an hour-long educational presentation will be conducted, revealing the researched truths about the long-told mysteries of The Lone Woman of San Nicolas.

Before the presentation from 4-5 p.m., museum staff will discuss the museum's educational offerings that include school tour programs and classroom materials being used to target elementary history and social studies standards.

The event is geared towards local educators, parents and their students. Doors open at 4 p.m. 

Theresa Reilly, Curator of Education for the museum, says the event will kick off the school year in a way that showcases the museum's community-driven educational initiatives that aim to bring local history alive.

The true-life story of Juana Maria depicted in Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, is a classic literary work that is part of educational curriculum for school children everywhere.

Due to the proximity to Juana Maria’s home on nearby San Nicolas Island in California’s Channel Islands, locals can gain a greater sense of connection.

Extensive research has since been done by nearby academics to better understand Juana Maria's solitary life on the remote island. But major questions still exist.

To help dispel the mystery, John R. Johnson, Ph.D., Curator of Anthropology at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and Susan Morris, a historical researcher and expert on the Lone Woman, will present current research about Juana Maria’s life.

Recent archaeological discoveries and historical research have uncovered new details that better explain why she may have remained on San Nicolas Island — perhaps not so alone as previously believed.

Researchers have also uncovered what is believed to have been her sheltered cave as well as two redwood boxes with a cache of artifacts which are likely to have belonged to the not-so-lone-woman.

"It’s exciting to call attention to new research on Juana Maria conducted by leading anthropology experts that live in our region,” said Museum Director Brian Stenfors, Ph.D. We are thrilled to bring together students, parents, teachers and the public — anyone interested in the real story of Juana Maria’s extraordinary life. Together, we will learn new details about one of our region’s most famous historical figures.”

A $5 donation per adult is suggested. Children are free. Teachers and school administrators are invited to attend for free as the museum's special guests. Light refreshments will be served with beer and wine available for purchase.

An RSVP is requested. Contact Theresa Reilly or Teresa Mills at (805) 688-7889 or email education@santaynezmuseum.org.

For more information, visit santaynezmuseum.org.

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Lisa André covers Valley Life for Santa Ynez Valley News. 

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