Blue Tattoo

By Ruth Nolan

—The story of Olive Oatman—


Olive Oatman

Olive Oatman

We took care of her, the white girl,
the grandson of the last traditional chief
of the Mojave Indians told the crowd

in 2012, at the 13th celebration
of the victory of Ward Valley
no radioactive waste facility here.

This valley is where our deceased
follow the Milky Way to the sacred
peak at Spirit Mountain, avi k’wame.

She chose the pattern
of her own tattoos on her chin,
the blue lines, the river.

We are the people
who walk along the water.
She swims with us now.




About Ruth Nolan

Ruth Nolana former wildland firefighter in the Western U.S.,  is a writer and professor based in Palm Springs, CA. She’s the author of the poetry book Ruby Mountain (Finishing Line Press 2016). Her short story, “Palimpsest,” published in LA Fiction: Southland Writing by Southland Writers (Red Hen Press 2016), received an Honorable Mention in Sequestrum Magazine’s 2016 Editor’s Reprint contest and was also nominated for a 2016 PEN Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. Ruth’s writing has also been published in James Franco Review; Angels Flight LA/Literary West; Rattling WallKCET/Artbound Los Angeles; Lumen; Desert Oracle; Women’s Studies Quarterly; News from Native California; Sierra Club Desert Report; The Desert Sun/USA Today and Inlandia Literary Journeys. Ruth holds her M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California, Riverside. She may be reached at and Twitter @ruthnolan.

The portrait of Olive Oatman is from Captivity of the Oatman girls: being an interesting narrative of life among the Apache and Mohave Indians, by Royal B. Stratton, 1858, a questionable account.


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