Printer Friendly

Mourning Dove and Mixed Blood: Cultural and Historical Pressures on Aesthetic Choice and Authorial Identity.

Mourning Dove is the pen name of Christine Quintasket, one of the foremothers of contemporary Native American women novelists. Her only novel to reach publication was a western romance entitled Cogewea, the Half-Blood: A Depiction of the Great Montana Cattle Range, published in 1927, fifteen years after she began writing it. In Cogewea, Mourning Dove created some of the earliest heroic "half-blood" characters of Native American literature, anticipating by fifty years the recuperative theme of Leslie Silko's Ceremony (1977) and Paula Gunn Allen's Woman Who Owned the Shadows (1983). Mourning Dove's choice to identify herself and her fictional heroine, Cogewea McDonald, as "half-blood" raises interesting questions about her cultural and historical context. Why would a (possibly) full-blooded Salishan woman center her first novel around the struggles of mixed-blood characters? And what might have induced her to create a family tree for herself incorporating European and Native ancestry and to claim, as she does in her preface to Coyote Stories (1933), that her paternal grandfather was "a hardy, adventurous Celt"? These choices of mixed-blood identity are vital aspects of Mourning Dove's project in Cogewea, the Half-Blood: the creation of imaginative space in which to represent the reality of mixed-blood people, and a concurrent creation of a cross-cultural genre, complete with its own "half-blood aesthetic." And, as critics have argued, while identity and authorship are complex aesthetic and personal issues for women writers outside the Anglo-American mainstream, I want to suggest that some of the answers to questions about Mourning Dove's choices lie in her location in time and space -- the late nineteenth and early twentieth century near the western border between the United States and Canada.

Contemporary Native author and critic Louis Owens (Choctaw-Cherokee-Irish) is among those whose work engages the double perspective of Native authors who produce literary texts in European media and genres but who also draw on the traditions and contemporary realities of Native cultures. Owens writes of the meaning of mixed blood in Silko's Ceremony:
   [I]n the character of Tayo, Silko turns the conventionally painful
   predicament of the mixedblood around, making the mixedblood a metaphor for
   the dynamic, syncretic, adaptive qualities of Indian cultures that will
   ensure survival.... the mixedblood is a rich source of power and something
   to be celebrated rather than mourned.(1)

Often, the trope of cultural intersection is figured forth in half-blood fictional characters. Gerald Vizenor (mixed-blood Ojibwa) and Paula Gunn Allen (Laguna Pueblo-Sioux-Lebanese) have both combined the mythic figure of the earthdiver with the half-blood as a metaphor for survival. In Vizenor's Earthdivers (1981) and Allen's Woman Who Owned the Shadows (1983), half-blood people are responsible for creating a place where they -- and everyone else -- can survive. Vizenor explains in his preface to Earthdivers:
   [I]n the metaphor of the Metis earthdiver, white settlers are summoned to
   dive with mixed-blood survivors into the unknown, into the legal morass of
   treaties and bureaucratic evils, and to swim deep down and around through
   federal exclaves and colonial economic enterprises in search of a few
   honest words upon which to build a new urban turtle island.... Metis
   tricksters and earthdivers are the metaphors between new sources of
   opposition and colonial ideas about savagism and civilization.(2)

Like the earthdivers of the widespread creation myth, who establish dry land on the back of the turtle, they provide a new habitable zone. In her study of the impact of gender and ethnicity on authorship, Pocahontas's Daughters (1986), Mary Dearborn discusses the necessity for a "female ethnic author" to rebel without seeming to, writing within a genteel literary tradition and with the express purpose of mediating between her culture and the dominant one, but maintaining a posture of rebellion by weaving subversion into her text."(3) The subversion in the case of Cogewea the Half-Blood is essentially the claiming of space for mixed-blood people in a genre and during a period in history when white encroachment left little physical or literary space even for the people who defined themselves as fully Indian.

In her novel, Mourning Dove maintains what Sidner Larson, in a recent article on Native American aesthetics, calls "an attitude of relationship," which I understand to mean a valuing of kinship ties over blood quantum. This "attitude" offers an alternative to the definitions of Native people imposed by white outsiders, whose interest often has been in shrinking the numbers of people who have rights to government subsidies or land allotments. Those outside definitions, says Larson, are "in direct opposition to [the Native people's] former historical, place-oriented notion of themselves."(4) Native people's self-definitions tend toward inclusiveness rather than the exclusiveness and obsession with "authenticity" that are characteristic of white outsiders' definitions, whose purpose is to limit and "corral" the tribes.

For Mourning Dove the side-by-side existence of full-blood Okanogan and mixed-blood characters is not only possible but necessary to present a full "depiction of the great Montana cattle range." In the novel Cogewea says, "The curse of the Shoyahpee [white man] seems to go with every thing that he touches. We despised breeds are in a zone of our own and when we break from the corral erected about us, we meet up with trouble."(5) Mourning Dove's novel not only redefines Native people and half-bloods in their own terms, but also establishes a permanent space, an American homeland chosen by the mixed-blood people who embody that connection. In the search for identity and homeland, her project bears a relationship to the Canadian Metis struggle for autonomy which created the Province of Manitoba in 1870; there are both geographical and historical connections between those events and the life and work of Mourning Dove.

She claimed to have been born in 1888 in a canoe crossing the Kootenai River near Bonner's Ferry, Idaho. In retrospect, her birth during that crossing came to symbolize for her "a life of transition."(6) Raised in a religious Catholic Okanogan-Colville family, she was educated by Jesuits at a mission school at Ward, Washington, but was really taught to read by an Irish-American teenager named Jimmy Ryan who had been adopted by her family. His favorite texts were "yellowback novels" (dime-store popular fiction) and thus an early taste for sensation and melodrama was inculcated in the young author. The plot of Cogewea, the Half-Blood, while it works like many western melodramas, also draws upon the traditional Okanagan tales "Little Chipmunk and the Owl Woman" and "Coyote Kills Owl Woman" and transforms them into fiction. The main character of these tales is Kots-se-we-ah, "a gay mischievous girl who frisks about without a care until trouble appears, then runs for shelter to her patient, hardworking grandmother." Kots-se-we-ah is pursued by Owl Woman, who tears out her heart, but the girl is brought back to life and Coyote plans revenge on Owl Woman. The transformations that convert the characters into the good guys and bad guys of cowboy melodrama do not eradicate the Okanogan basis of the story. Rather, the text itself stands as an example of the intersection of European romance and Okanogan myth.(7)

Whether Mourning Dove's own status was full-blood or mixed-blood has been a matter of some disagreement in the works of her two biographers, Dexter Fisher and Jay Miller. The conflict originates between Mourning Dove's own account of her genealogy and various readings of the historical record. In her 1979 dissertation, Dexter Fisher examined Mourning Dove and Zitkala-Sa as "transitional American Indian writers." In her introduction to the 1981 reprint of Cogewea, Fisher reports from research into Mourning Dove's correspondence that her paternal grandfather was an Irishman named Haynes who "married her Indian grandmother under false pretenses in a tribal ceremony," and that after he left his wife, his son Joseph, Mourning Dove's father, "took the name of his stepfather, Quintasket."(8)

Miller, who published a biographical article and edited Mourning Dove's autobiographical writings a decade later, gives a different story of Mourning Dove's father. Miller's research in census records and among other members of Mourning Dove's family indicates that her claim of a European paternal grandfather was a fiction; he posits that since her father was an orphan "she could imagine her grandfather as she wished." He tells us that Joseph Quintasket "was an orphan whose mother was a Nicola, an Athapaskan-speaking tribe living among the Okanagans" and whose father was from the Canadian Okanagans.(9)

More recently, too, Alanna K. Brown has shown that even the government allotment records contain discrepancies. In her article "Mourning Dove's Canadian Recovery Years, 1917-1919," she points out that the records date Christine Quintasket's birth in both 1882 and 1887 and also indicate the name of her father as "Haines." This evidence of confusion raises the question of whether Joseph Quintasket was Christine's biological father or her stepfather; Brown's research suggests that Mourning Dove might have had a higher percentage of European blood than she knew or claimed. Perhaps the process of establishing Native identity by claiming the stepfather's name took place in Mourning Dove's generation rather than in her father's, as Fisher has suggested. In any case, as Brown concludes, the parents who raised her had been raised traditionally (Lucy Stuikin, Colville, and Joseph Quintasket, Okanagan) and grounded Mourning Dove in a traditional Salishan cultural background.

Assuming that Mourning Dove was fully of Native heritage, Miller attempts to explain the author's Europeanization of her heritage in two ways. He says she may have wished to keep her public authorial identity separate from her true "ancestral Salish identity," since she never used the name Christine Quintasket to sign any of her published writings. Miller also suggests that "given the tenor of the times and region, her claims to some white ancestry probably gave her more freedom to move among her neighbors and to appeal to a broader readership."(10)

However, claiming half-blood status could have had precisely the opposite effect on white readers. At best, as William Scheik has shown in his study of the half-blood as cultural symbol in nineteenth-century America, half-blood status might have elicited ambivalence from a society characterized by "unreceptiveness to the assimilation of alien individuals."(11) Anglo-Americans traditionally have held particularly intolerant opinions of people with half-French and half-Native heritage, and have expressed these views with venom over the years.(12) Northwestern Montana, the setting of Cogewea, the Half-Blood, was the site of uneasy contact between half-bloods and whites near the time of Mourning Dove's birth in 1885. Refugee Metis from Manitoba, the adopted homeland of Canadian mixed-blood people, migrated southwest to Montana in the 1870s following political and economic pressures on their continuing livelihood as buffalo hunters. Samples of the views of white Montanans, who referred to the Metis as "breeds" or "the coyote French," are preserved in the newspapers of the time:
   [The half-blood is] the meanest creature that walks. He is never equal in
   courage to his father.... He surpasses his mother in dishonesty and

   -- Great Falls Tribune, 16 July 1885(13)

Such a representation of the half-blood as embodying the worst of both worlds was common in the nineteenth century and earlier. The assumption that men in these unions were non-Indian and women were Indian reflects not only the demographic history that at first European men went without women into Indian lands and therefore took Indian wives, but also the racist and sexist ideology of whites who guarded their "racial purity" by denying the existence of unions between Indian men and European women.

American hostility to half-blood people was heightened in the case of the Canadian Metis. The fact that mixed-blood people from Canada tended to have "a stronger sense of identity, a more highly developed culture and a stronger moral background than [their] American counterpart[s] ... only made [them] more suspect" among American whites.(14) The recent history of agitation led by the Canadian Metis hero Louis Riel, and the creation in 1870 of the Province of Manitoba as a Metis province, attested to the strength of Metis identity and organization. And Canadian mixed-bloods held the added stigma of being French-speaking foreigners who owed no allegiance to the American government or to white American citizens in the project of subduing the Native inhabitants of the land. The editor of the Fort Benton (Montana) Weekly Record wrote about them thus:
   A half-breed camp is nearly as great an attraction for hostile Indians as a
   herd of buffalo is to a pack of famishing wolves, and while the half-breeds
   are permitted to roam at will, the hostiles will never want for ammunition
   or whiskey, or cease to prowl on the outskirts of civilization and rob the
   white settlers of life and property.... These Canadian half-breeds pay no
   taxes; they produce nothing but discord, violence and bloodshed wherever
   they are permitted to locate. They are a worthless, brutal race of the
   lowest species of humanity, without one redeeming trait to commend them to
   the sympathy or protection of any Government.

   -- Fort Benton Record, 17 October 1879(15)

Attitudes among whites, then, are clearly enough delineated. But while the views of Native American people toward half-blood people are more difficult to ascertain, it is certain that Christine Quintasket was born into a social climate among Native people of the United States Northwest where a consciousness of the struggles of Canada's Metis still survived, at a time when it was possible for her to regard a mixed-blood heritage as romantic and worthy of pride and preservation. In fact, the year of her birth, if it was indeed 1885, was also the year of Louis Riel's execution by the Canadian government for treason, an event which created him as a Metis martyr. This ambience of Metis history might have been particularly strong as she moved eastward to Montana in 1904 to work and attend classes at the Fort Shaw Indian School in Great Falls. Just to the east of Great Falls lies the Judith Basin, where only two decades earlier, in 1883, Louis Riel had adopted American citizenship and had tried to create a coalition among the Canadian Metis, the American mixed-bloods, and the full-blooded Native Americans living there.

Mourning Dove refers to Canadian Metis history at various points in her novel. Some of the half-blood cowboys of the Horseshoe Bend Ranch, the setting of Cogewea, the Half-Blood, bear French names; Jaquis de Mont, a cook, is described as having "long been connected with the range."(16) And Cogewea's romantic counterpart, James La Grinder, evokes French culture when he imagines a wedding celebration, with
   fiddlers and an old fashioned dance at the big log house. No waltzes nor
   two-steps,' cause he couldn't do 'em. Only the quadrilles and the "Virginia
   hoe-down" of other days ... And the light step to the tune of the "Red
   River Jig."(17)

Jim's taste runs to square and contra dances, the quadrilles and rigaudons still danced by French Canadians today. Mourning Dove's reference to the dance tune "Red River Jig" connects even more pointedly with Metis history. The Red River provides the border between Minnesota and North Dakota, and runs north through what is now the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. When Louis Riel first ascended to leadership of the Canadian Metis, he was headquartered in a settlement outside of Winnipeg known as Red River; the name "Red River" became equated with the political intentions of its inhabitants, just as the name of any nation's capitol carries such connotations today. Mourning Dove's use of the name of the dance suggests a cultural milieu in which the relatively recent memory of the Metis struggle and the Metis hero Louis Riel survived. Native Americans or half-blood people in the United States probably learned the "Red River Jig" from Canadian Metis people during the buffalo hunts that brought the Metis west to Saskatchewan and south to Montana twice a year. According to Verne Dusenberry, the Metis from the Red River brought dance and music with them to their "frontier" buffalo hunting settlements along the Milk River in Montana: "The [fiddle] tunes were generally adaptations of old French folk songs while the dance itself was a lively number which in time became known as the Red River Jig."(18)

In Montana, Mourning Dove perceived the connection between the dwindling numbers of wild buffalo and the fate of the Native people whose traditional lifestyles centered around them. In 1908 she witnessed the roundup of the last herd of wild buffalo, which, on the occasion of the opening of the Flathead Indian lands to settlement, had been sold to the Canadian government. (Ironically enough, that same year the U.S. government, under the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt, preserved the memory of this event by establishing a National Bison Range on the spot, on land purchased from the Flathead Indians.) The drama and pathos of the buffalo roundup affected Mourning Dove profoundly, symbolizing for her and for many others the violent circumscription of the lives of Native and mixed-blood people by encroaching white settlement. On the bison range she had a spiritual encounter, during which she believed she had acquired a personal spirit helper in the form of a voice issuing from a bison skull. This spirit helper found its way into her novel as the spirit helper of Cogewea herself. Likewise, Mourning Dove eulogizes the vanished buffalo repeatedly in the novel, which is set in specific locations throughout the Flathead Reservation.

The intertwining imagery of the American bison and the "vanished or vanishing Native American" provides us with another key to Mourning Dove's choice of the half-blood over the full-blood as the center of her novel. Early in the story Cogewea is depicted as having a special connection with the buffalo early as she gazes around the ranch house:
   [A]bove the bookcase leaned the mounted head of a mighty buffalo bull.
   Cogewea never looked upon this trophy without a pang of regret. The fixed
   glassy eyes haunted her, as a ghost of the past. With her people had
   vanished this monarch of the plains. The war-whoop and the thunder of the
   herd were alike hushed in the silence of the last sleep -- and only the
   wind sighing a parting requiem.(19)

At all times three paths present themselves before the girl, Cogewea: her Native heritage, her white heritage, and her actuality as a mixed-blood person. As the passage above suggests, her Native past is associated with extinction, with removal, with inability to survive. However, the existence of her spirit helper that speaks from the buffalo skull on Buffalo Butte and her very traditional grandmother's constant words of wisdom provide Cogewea with accessible sources of strength. Because she identifies herself as a half-blood person, she can draw upon her Okanogan heritage as much as she draws from the white education in which she excelled at Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania.

Mourning Dove gives heavy emphasis in the narration of the book to the situation of half-blood people; Cogewea, Jim, and other half-blood characters bring forth impassioned soliloquies and carry on heartfelt conversations on the topic:
   "The Indian is a peculiarly mysterious race; differing from all others,"
   broke in Cogewea. "We breeds are half and half -- American and Caucasion
   [sic] -- and in a separate corral. We are despised by both of our
   relatives. The white people call us `Injuns' and a `good-for-nothing'
   outfit; a `shiftless,' vile class of commonalty [sic]. Our Red brothers say
   that we are `stuck-up'; that we have deserted our own kind and are
   imitating the ways of the despoilers of our nationality. But you wait and
   watch!" exclaimed the girl with animation. "The day will dawn when the
   desolate, exiled breed will come into his own."(20)

Cogewea's unrealized vision calls for space and self respect, denied to half-bloods by both sides of their heritage. Mourning Dove sets up a clear polarity between white and Native cultures, illustrated in the novel by events such as the Fourth of July segregated horse races for "ladies" and for "squaws" (both of which contests Cogewea wins, though she is forbidden by the judges to collect either of the prizes), and by the sharp contrast between the greedy desires of the white villain, Densmore, and the traditional Okanogan wisdom of Cogewea's grandmother. In the process of the story Mourning Dove takes Cogewea through experiences of the antithetical nature of these cultures, and defines and constructs a middle ground where half-blood people can exist fully, without pressure from either the white or the Indian world.

The Horseshoe Bend Ranch itself, although owned by a white rancher, emerges as the logical locus of the half-blood world, a liminal space where intersections occur and mixed heritage is tolerated, even fostered. Named for a distinct feature of the Flathead River, the Horseshoe Bend Ranch's name is often abbreviated in the text as the H-B; my students have pointed out to me these letters are the initials of "half-blood." Cogewea's sister Julia is married to the owner and is therefore herself part-owner of the ranch; her two sisters and their maternal grandmother, the Stemteema, live nearby. The ranch is a safe place for Cogewea and her female relatives; there the third sister, Mary, and the Stemteema are free to hold closely to Okanogan tradition. The owner, John Carter, is an extraordinary white man who does not try to erase his wife's Native heritage, nor does he seem to bear ill feelings toward mixed-blood people generally, since most of his hired cowpunchers are half- or quarter-bloods.

The H-B ranch is where James LaGrinder can be foreman over all the hired hands, mixed-blood and white, and where Cogewea can test the social, intellectual, and spiritual limits of who she is. Mourning Dove depicts her in search of identity and purpose: "Cogewea could not understand herself. She could find no place in life. Her mind burned with an undefinable restlessness. Her longings were vague and shadowy; as something not to be attained."(21) Despite her firm connection to traditional Okanogan life through her grandmother and her success in the white-style education at Carlisle, or perhaps because the reality of her mixed blood validates her claim to both heritages, Cogewea is confused.

The major locus of her confusion lies in her relationships with men. She has plenty of self-confidence as a working member of the ranch and prospective "foreman," but the loving overtures of James LaGrinder set her off balance. Cogewea prefers to keep their relationship on the level of a sibling relationship, and Jim acquiesces, because of their parallel half-blood status, in calling her "Sis" and other younger-sister nicknames. Mourning Dove announces Jim's warmth of feeling for Cogewea early in the novel, but for Cogewea this mirroring of each other as half-bloods obscures their romance at first. Cogewea's reaction to Jim is that he is too comfortable for her, and she attempts to try out the possibilities of her white heritage through marriage to a white man.

Mourning Dove employs this plot device in reaction to a 1909 novel entitled The Brand, which Cogewea criticizes. In The Brand, the half-blood male hero denies his heritage in order to win the love of a white woman. "Bosh!" muses Cogewea,
   Show me the Red "buck" who would slave for the most exclusive white
   "princess" that lives. Such hash may go with the whites, but the Indian,
   both full bloods and the despised breeds know differently. And, that a
   "hero" should be depicted as hating his own mother for the flesh and heart
   that she gave his miserable frame. What a figure to be held up for
   laudation by either novelist or historian!(22)

From start to finish the reader knows that the white man Cogewea tangles with is worse than unworthy of her. First of all, he is an Easterner and a "tenderfoot" who has tried to pass himself off as a rider; Cogewea, in her capacity as lieutenant foreman, has hired him as a joke. Mourning Dove allows us melodramatic glimpses of the deceptive Alfred Densmore's reactions, starting with his first day at the ranch:
   He was hardly satisfied with his surroundings. Where were those picturesque
   Indians that he was promised to meet? Instead, he had been lured into a
   nest of half bloods, whom he had always understood to be the inferior
   degenerates of two races. He could not fathom the "forward" girl with the
   musical, though unpronounceable name. What was she?(23)

He bears all the stereotypical prejudices of an Anglo-American toward half-blood people; it is impossible to believe that he is anything but Mr. Wrong for Cogewea. He conceives a plan to seduce her, believing that she is wealthy because of her relationship to the ranch family; he connives to marry her in a tribal ceremony which he can by U.S. law disregard later, to steal her money, and even to create an "accident" to do away with her. The Stemteema uses traditional Okanogan tales and the image of the snake to characterize Densmore's poisonous nature and warn Cogewea away from him. Seen in the light of his character, it is clear that to "whiten" the half-blood will be deadly in this case; Densmore is no John Carter. If Cogewea were to leave behind the Indian part of her heritage, Densmore would subjugate her body and spirit to the fulfillment of his greed. Mourning Dove exposes the way Densmore's sexual treachery arises from his proprietary orientation within an economic system in which women, land, and resources are commodified and exploited.

Cogewea's decision to marry Jim signifies her acceptance of her half-blood identity as viable and central to herself. To marry another half-blood person is not an acquiescent and xenophobic "staying with your own kind," but rather it creates for the future a permanence of the half-blood. The children of Cogewea and Jim will, like their parents, be exactly half European and half Native in blood, and by their marriage Cogewea and Jim create a permanent place of ownership and wealth for half-bloods. (John Carter has promised to make Jim a partner in the ranch when he becomes a married man, particularly if Cogewea is his bride.) As Jim puts it, "Sis! I always did love you some, and now I like you like hell! S'pose we remain together in that there corral you spoke of as bein' built 'round us by the Shoyahpee? I ain't never had no ropes on no gal but you."(24)

Critical readers of Cogewea, the Half-Blood will probably be puzzled by the novel's shifts in voice and, apparently, in genre, between novel, political tract, and ethnographic report. Mourning Dove is not entirely to blame for these irregularities, however; she had the fortune or misfortune to meet up with the ethnographer-journalist Lucullus Virgil McWhorter in 1914, two years after she began work on Cogewea, and he became her editor and mentor in the publishing process. During the winter of 1916 McWhorter provided a quiet place in his own house in Yakima, Washington, for Mourning Dove's revision of the novel's first draft. Sharing Mourning Dove's frustration and disappointment at delays and setbacks in the process, however, McWhorter took it upon himself to revise it again in 1922. And although McWhorter valued the book, as he wrote to a friend, because it "graphically portray[ed] the social status of the Indian, especially the half-bloods; or `breeds,'" he had no concept of Mourning Dove's half-blood aesthetic and a relatively tepid interest in the pulp-fiction, Zane Greyesque genre that had originally fired Mourning Dove's imagination.(25) In fact, McWhorter was inclined to create a tragic ending for the story, and, according to Alanna Brown, he chose the epigraphs heading all the chapters with the intention of leading up to the tragedy.(26) That aesthetic choice would have recapitulated generations of white representations of half-bloods as unfit to survive because their mixed heritage combined the worst of both worlds. Brown emphasizes that McWhorter valued the novel because it was "true to Indian life,"(27) but not for its manipulation of the western genre of fiction or for Mourning Dove's recuperation of the half-blood in a heroic role.

In spite of McWhorter's additions to the text, Mourning Dove's Metis imagery and theme of the heroic potential of the half-blood remain intact. However, when Mourning Dove read the published version of the novel she had worked on for fifteen years, she wrote to McWhorter:
   Dear Big Foot,

      I have just got through going over the book Cogeawea [sic], and am
   surprised at the changes that you made. I think they are fine, and you made
   a tasty dressing like a cook would do with a fine meal. I sure was
   interested in the book, and hubby read it over and also all the rest of the
   family neglected their housework till they read it cover to cover. I felt
   like it was some one elses [sic] book and not mine at all. In fact the
   finishing touches are put there by you, and I have never seen it.(28)

If Mourning Dove's book is a type of the half-blood zone she was working to develop, then the literary, anthropological, and political intrusions of "Big Foot" McWhorter are images of trespass on that zone. But the lesson of the novel's plot and of the meta-plot of its creation is that the half-blood is a survivor. Despite McWhorter's arguments in favor of a tragic ending for the book, Mourning Dove had the last word in creating a happy half-blood future for Cogewea and Jim, safe, empowered, and firmly rooted at the H-B Ranch.

In its depiction of cowboy and Indian themes, its emphasis on the reality of half-blood people south of the Canadian border, and its presentation of a sensational romance alongside and thematically intertwined with traditional mythic tales from Okanogan society, Cogewea, the Half-Blood brings to the reader a picture of how cultures merge beyond the limits of the novel's plot. The story of Cogewea, while using the conventions of the Euro-American genre of western romance, works to establish the sense of self related to place necessary and traditional for Native American people and integral to a Native American literary aesthetic. Mourning Dove's fictive establishment of a permanent zone of safety and success for half-bloods is echoed exactly fifty years later by Leslie Silko in her recuperation of the half-blood in the novel Ceremony (1977).(29) Silko's hero, Tayo, performs a ceremony of healing for himself which contains the seeds of salvation for the entire world; it is his half-blood status that enables him to perform the function of deliverance, since his own body, his community of Laguna, and the Earth have all become sites of cultural intersection. For Mourning Dove and many other Native authors who have followed her footsteps, the project of creating fiction leads inevitably to the imaginative zone of the half-blood, a resonant metaphor for the way Native cultures contain the seeds of adaptive and incorporative survival.


(1.) Owens, Other Destinies, p. 26.

(2.) Vizenor, Earthdivers, pp. x-xi.

(3.) Dearborn, Pocahontas's Daughters, p. 29. Dearborn's discussion of "female ethnic authorship" is of interest, although she characterizes Mourning Dove's novel as "a slightly schizophrenic book" and "a text gone crazy" (p. 20) largely because of the intrusions of Lucullus Virgil McWhorter in the editorial process. It is evident, too, that recent literary historical research, particularly work by Alanna Brown and Jay Miller, has brought more accurate details of Mourning Dove's life to light. Dearborn is more concerned, too, with intermarriage, rather than mixed-bloodedness, as an important metaphor in the ethnic woman's creative process.

(4.) Larson, "Native American Aesthetics," p. 53.

(5.) Mourning Dove, Cogewea, p. 283.

(6.) Miller, "Mourning Dove: Author as Mediator," p. 162.

(7.) Fisher, introduction, p. xii.

(8.) Ibid., p. vii. "It is not surprising," Fisher continues, "that the betrayal of Indian women by white men is central to the plot of Mourning Dove's romantic novel, Cogewea." While I agree that this issue was certainly on Mourning Dove's mind as she composed Cogewea, I would argue that it was more important to her to recuperate the image of the half-blood and to use marriage itself as a way to achieve that recuperation.

(9.) Miller, Mourning Dove: Autobiography, p. xvi. "Okanagan" is the term used to distinguish Canadian Okanogans.

(10.) Miller, introduction to Coyote Stories, p. ix.

(11.) Scheik, Half-Blood, p. 4.

(12.). Ibid., p. 5.

(13.) Stanley, Louis Riel, p. 242.

(14). Ibid.

(15.) Ibid.

(16.) Mourning Dove, Cogewea, p. 153.

(17.) Ibid., p. 108.

(18.) Dusenberry, "Waiting for a Day," p. 121. This article largely substantiates the presence of Metis people and culture in Montana during the last half of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century.

(19.) Mourning Dove, Cogewea, p. 31.

(20.) Ibid., p. 95.

(21.) Ibid., p. 22.

(22.) Ibid., p. 17.

(23.) Ibid., p. 48.

(24.) Ibid., p. 283.

(25.) Brown, "Mourning Dove's Voice," p. 2. Perhaps because of his credentials from the white world of education, research, and publishing, McWhorter felt no hesitation in asserting what he thought should go into the novel. His thrust was both anthropological and political; the content he wanted to inject was about "pure" Okanagan culture and traditions (along with a lot of irrelevant but equally "pure" ethnographic detail about the Blackfeet and the Nez Perce), as well as passages of turgidly verbose rhetoric about the plight of Indians vis-a-vis the United States government.

(26.) Ibid., pp. 12-13.

(27.) Ibid., p. 3.

(28.) Fisher, introduction, p. xv.

(29.) Silko is really the next Native American woman novelist in U.S. publishing history; Ella Deloria first wrote Waterlily in 1944, but the novel was not published until 1988.


Adams, Howard. Prison of Grass: Canada from a Native Point of View. 2d ed., rev. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: Fifth House Publishers, 1989.

Bataille, Gretchen M., and Kathleen Mullen Sands. American Indian Women: Telling Their Lives. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.

Broderick, Theresa. The Brand: A Tale of the Flathead Reservation. Seattle: Alice Harriman, 1909.

Brown, Manna K. "Looking through the Glass Darkly: The Editorialized Mourning Dove." New Voices in Native American Literary Criticism, Arnold Krupat, ed. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993.

--. "Mourning Dove's Canadian Recovery Years." Canadian Literature no. 124-25 (spring-summer 1990).

--. "Mourning Dove's Voice in Cogewea." Wicazo Sa Review 14:4 (fall 1988).

Brumble, H. David III. American Indian Autobiography. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.

Clifton, James A., ed. Being and Becoming Indian: Biographical Studies of North American Frontiers. Chicago: Dorsey Press, 1989.

Dearborn, Mary V. Pocahontas's Daughters: Gender and Ethnicity in American Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Deloria, Ella C. Waterlily. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988.

Dusenberry, Verne. "Waiting for a Day that Never Comes: The Dispossessed Metis of Montana." The New Peoples: Being and Becoming Metis in North America. Jacqueline Peterson and Jennifer S. H. Brown, eds. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1985.

Fisher, Dexter. Introduction to Cogewea, the Half-Blood, by Mourning Dove. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981.

--. [Alice Poindexter]. "The Transportation of Tradition: A Study of Zitkala Sa and Mourning Dove, Two Transitional American Indian Writers." Ph.D. diss., City College of New York, 1979.

Krupat, Arnold. For Those Who Come After: A Study of Native American Autobiography. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

--, ed. New Voices in Native American Literary Criticism. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993.

Larson, Sidner. "Native American Aesthetics: An Attitude of Relationship." MELUS 17 (fall 1991-92).

Miller, Jay. Introduction to Mourning Dove: A Salishan Autobiography, by Mourning Dove. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.

--. Introduction to Coyote Stories, by Mourning Dove. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.

--. "Mourning Dove: The Author as Cultural Mediator." Being and Becoming Indian, James A. Clifton, ed. Chicago: Dorsey Press, 1989.

Mourning Dove. Cogewea, the Half-Blood: A Depiction of the Great Montana Cattle Range. 1927. Reprint, with an introduction by Dexter Fisher, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981.

--. Coyote Stories. 1933. Reprint, with an introduction by Jay Miller, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.

--. Mourning Dove: A Salishan Autobiography. Jay Miller, ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.

Owens, Louis. Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992.

Peterson, Jacqueline, and Jennifer S. H. Brown, eds. The New Peoples: Being and Becoming Miffs in North America. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1985.

Riel, Louis. The Collected Writings of Louis Riel/Les Ecrits complets de Louis Riel. Vol. 2, 1875-1884. Gilles Martel, ed. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1985.

Ryker, Lois. "Hu-mi-shu-ma: Mourning Dove Was the Sweet Voice of the Indians of Eastern Washington." Seattle Times, 18 February 1962.

Scheik, William J. The Half-Blood: A Cultural Symbol in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction. Lexington KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1979.

Silko, Leslie. Ceremony. New York: Viking Penguin, 1977.

Stanley, George F. G. Louis Riel Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., 1985.

Vizenor, Gerald. Earthdivers: Tribal Narratives on Mixed Descent. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1981.

Margaret A. Lukens is an associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Maine.
COPYRIGHT 1997 University of Nebraska Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Lukens, Margaret A.
Publication:The American Indian Quarterly
Date:Jun 22, 1997
Previous Article:"Tell Me a Woman's Story": The Question of Gender in the Construction of Waheenee, Pretty-shield, and Papago Woman.
Next Article:The Lynx in Time: Haudenosaunee Women's Traditions and History.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |