~ Morning Dove ~ Author

“Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.”

Mourning Dove (Salish) 1888-1936

Mourning Dove or Christal Quintasket was a Native American author and best known for her 1927 novel Cogewea the Half-Blood: A Depiction of the Great Montana Cattle Range, which tells the story of Cogewea, a mixed-blood ranch woman on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The novel is one of the first written by a Native American woman and one of few early Native American works with a female central character. She is also known for Coyote Stories (1933), a collection of Native American folklore (using her term).

Mourning Dove’s novel treats a theme common in early Native American fiction: the plight of the mixedblood (or “breed”), caught between white and Indian cultures. Cogewea and her sisters Julia and Mary lost their Okanogan mother to death and their white father to the Alaskan gold rush and were raised by their Indian grandmother Stemteemä, but have since moved onto the Flathead Indian Reservation ranch owned by Julia’s white husband, where she must fend between white, east-coast suitor Alfred Densmore (who has Julia’s approval but also Mary’s suspicions) and the half-blooded ranch foreman, James LaGrinder. However, Mourning Dove does not make this story a tragic-mixedblood tale, but allows Cogewea and Jim a happy ending. The novel is important not only as an early Native American woman’s novel and for its happy ending, but also for because of the contributions of Mourning Dove’s collaborator and editor Lucullus Virgil McWhorter, whose additions made Mourning Dove feel that the book was no longer hers.

The name she grew up with was Christal Quintasket. Quintasket was a name her father had taken from his stepfather. She also had a native name, Hum-isha-ma. Early in her life, when she was forced to give up her language at the Sacred Heart School at the Goodwin Mission in Ward, near Kettle Falls, Washington, she also lost the meaning of her native name.

Mourning Dove was what she thought Hum-isha-ma meant. But she later said that, “the whiteman must have invented the name for it,” after realizing that her people did not name women with animal or bird names. She also came to realized that she had spelled the translation wrong. She had spelled it Morning Dove, but after seeing a mourning dove in a museum, realized the error and changed it to Mourning Dove.

She was born “in the Moon of Leaves” (April), 1888 in a canoe on the Kootenai River near Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Her mother, Lucy Stukin, was of Sinixt (Lakes) and Colville (Skoyelpi) ancestry.[10] Lucy was the daughter of Sinixt Chief Seewhelken. Her father was Joseph Quintasket, a member of the Okanagan people. He had a Nicola Okanagan mother and an Irish father.Her tribal enrollment on the Colville Reservation was Sinixt (Lakes), although she referred to herself as Okanogan.

Mourning Dove learned English in school, and after reading The Brand: A Tale of the Flathead Reservation by Theresa Broderick, was motivated to begin writing. Her command of English made her valued by her fellow natives and she advised local Native leaders. She also became active in Native politics, for instance getting money paid that was owed to her tribe.

She was married to Hector McLeod, member of the Flathead people, who proved to be an abusive husband. She married Fred Galler of the Wenatchee people in 1919.

She died on 8 August 1936 at the state hospital at Medical Lake, Washington

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: