The Blue Tattoo

Written by Margot Mifflin
Review by Tamela McCann

The Blue Tattoo pieces together the true story of Olive Oatman, a 14-year-old girl taken captive by the Yavapai Indians in 1851 after the massacre of almost all her family as they traveled west. Olive and her sister Mary Ann lived as servants to the Yavapai for a year until they were traded to the Mohave Indians and adopted into their tribe. Though Mary Ann’s frail nature eventually claimed her life, the girls were considered Mohave during the four years of their captivity; each was given a distinctive facial tattoo to identify them as tribe members. It was this tattoo that brought Olive Oatman fame after her eventual release and helped define her life afterwards. Mifflin sifts through the known facts of Olive’s story, giving us a glimpse of a young woman conflicted by two separate lives.

The Blue Tattoo is a fascinating look at how Olive’s life has been enhanced through the years, and it gives an in-depth perspective of the influences Olive must have felt, particularly after her repatriation into white society. Having always been intrigued by stories of whites who were captured by Indians, I found this factual account well-written, if at times a little meandering in its focus. The Blue Tattoo is an interesting, thoughtful look at the outward sign of an indelible mark left by the Mohave on Olive Oatman’s life.