Royal B. Stratton
LIFE AMONG THE INDIANS, OR: THE CAPTIVITY OF THE OATMAN GIRLS AMONG THE APACHE & MOHAVE INDIANS . . . San Francisco, Grabhorn Press, 1935.

[attack on the Oatman family], Mallette Dean
Attack on the Oatman Family
Mallette Dean
[xE85 S9 1935 opposite p. 56]

In the introduction to this edition, Lindley Bynum quotes extensively from a publication entitled The Olive Branch, which reported on the fate of the ill-planned western expedition that included the Oatman Family.

In the September 1851 issue of the journal, a letter from a Mrs. Wilder, written in California on May 16, 1851 is reprinted. It reads, in part, "On the 9th (Nov.) Oatman and part of the company went ahead . . . On the 20th [February] we met Oatman's oldest son, 15 years of age, Lorenzo was tired, hungry, bruised and bloody. He said he supposed that his people were all killed . . . Oatman had seven children and only five could be found; it is supposed that the Indians carried off two girls, one 14, the other 8 years old . . . "

The violent attack upon the Oatman Family is rendered in graphic detail with this powerful woodcut.

The extensive use of black ink, creating a "negative" image, adds enormous weight to the illustration. As Indians tower over helpless victims with weapons upraised, there can be little doubt of the outcome. The faceless images and seemingly crude postures add other unsettling factors to the illustration.

Captivity stories placed women and children in sympathetic roles, and the experience of the two Oatman girls, Mary and Olive, is one of the most circulated accounts of the day.

The theme of family loss and personal transformation in female captivity stories plays strongly upon the struggle for survival that characterized the Anglo-American experience in the West. The righteousness of the migration westward is a blatant assumption, and the depiction of savage Indians descending upon civilized families plays into longstanding racial stereotypes.

The experiences of the most vulnerable members of Euro-American society provided writers and readers with martyrs and heroes, and helped to justify the domination of American Indians.

This handsome volume is Number 2 in the 3d Series of Rare Americana, published by the Grabhorn Press. Issued in a printing of "five hundred & fifty copies," this book is noteworthy for the exquisite illustrations that accompany the text. The woodcut illustrations are done by Mallette Dean.

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