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Study Guide Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

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The story begins when Karana, gathering roots with her brother, Ramo, first sighted an Aleut ship heading toward the island where she lived with the rest of the Ghalas-at Indians. Soon the men and women of the island headed toward where the ship would land, toward Coral Cove. The men carried weapons. Soon, a small boat was lowered from the ship. Aleut men with black hair and bone ornaments in their noses rowed the boat. Directing them was a Russian with a yellow beard.. They soon heard that his name was Captain Orlov. Karana's father, Chief Chowig, also introduced himself. There was consternation among the islanders because their chief had told the foreigner his secret name. They knew that could weaken their chief. The captain and the chief discussed the plans of the new arrivals. They were there to hunt sea otters. The islanders had had bad experience in the past with sea otter hunters. At first the captain wanted two thirds for himself and his hunters, but finally he agreed to split half and half.


It is difficult to understand what half and half meant. What the islanders were to receive was to be in the form of goods, not sea otter skins. How much goods equaled how many skins? We are not told.

At the end of chapter 4, the subject of Chief Chowig’s secret name returns. The topic of secret names is revisited in chapter 22, when Karana makes a decision regarding whether or not to give her secret name.

The Aleuts came from the Aleutian Islands which are located off of Alaska. The Russians used them because they were good hunters.

If you have access to a computer, you can search for web sites that have much information about the Aleutian Islands and the history of the Aleuts.



Chief Chowig warned the villagers to not socialize with the Aleuts. The villagers did as their chief told them. But, they did watch the Aleuts from afar. And, all activity was reported back to the group. The Aleuts also observed the Ghalas-at.

Ulape, Karana' sister, reported that there was a girl with the Aleuts. The girl dressed like the men and she kept her long hair under her cap. No one believed this.

One day Ulape discovered that a school of large white bass had been stranded on a rocky ledge. There was enough for everyone to feast on for two days. The second day, two Aleuts came to the village wanting to share the abundance. Karana's father decided not to share with them. They were capable of doing their own fishing, Chief Chowig rationalized. The two left, planning to tell Captain Orlov. They were not happy.


The Aleuts who came to ask for a share of bass only numbered two. But, there were many more at the ship who also would be unhappy.


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Johnson, Jane. "TheBestNotes on The Island of the Blue Dolphins". . 09 May 2017