Christine Quitasket, or Mourning Dove, as some may have come to know her from her pen name, will be honored during a symposium in Washington State November 7-8.

Mourning Dove Soars: Celebrate the First Native Woman to Publish a Novel

ICTMN Staff
10/29/13

She was taught to read with dime novels, and according to family legend was born in a canoe between 1884 and 1888.

Her name was Christine Quitasket, or Mourning Dove, as some may have come to know her from her pen name. Her novel Cogewea, The Half Blood: A Depiction of the Great Montana Cattle Range, was the first to be published by a Native American woman.

The book is about a mixed-blood girl caught between white ranchers and reservation Indians—“the book combines authentic Indian lore with the circumstance and dialogue of a popular romance,” says a description on Amazon.com.

“Cogewea is a young, spirited, mixed-blood woman who has returned to her brother-in-law’s ranch in Montana from the Carlisle Indian school. She soon finds herself torn between two forces: the traditionalism of her grandmother (Stemteemä) and the modern ways of Alfred Densmore, an Easterner who courts Cogewea because he believes, mistakenly, that she is wealthy,” says a story about Mourning Dove by the Center for Study of the Pacific Northwest.

According to HistoryLink.org, she told a Spokane newspaper in 1916 that she wanted to break down white stereotypes of American Indians. “It is all wrong, this saying that Indians do not feel as deeply as whites. We do feel, and by and by some of us are going to be able to make our feelings appreciated, and then will the true Indian character be revealed.”

That article advertised the release of Cogewea, but the book wouldn’t actually be published until 1927. But like her books after, it had been edited. “When Coyote Stories was published in 1933... Many of the stories as published were unrecognizable to the Colville-Okanagan elders who originally told them,” says HistoryLink.org.

Honor this groundbreaking Native American woman at the Mourning Dove Symposium and Celebration from November 7-8 at the Okanogan and Omak Long House. Register by clicking here—some events are already full. Check out the full listing of events here.

Mourning Dove (Christine Quintasket) (1880s-1936) (Washington State University Library (Lucullus V. McWhorter Collection)

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Iris Has The Eagle's picture
Iris Has The Eagle
Submitted by Iris Has The Eagle on
Beautiful! :)

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I just want to add that Wenatchee Valley College in Omak which is in Omak, Washington is putting on the symposium I am part of the coordinating team that is putting on the event. It is due time that this great lady is recognized. Thank you Indian Country Today for the article. Many people in our own area are not aware of her. It is important to bring awareness to historical women such as Mourning Dove (Christine Quintasket) who broke ground during a time of struggle and prejudice. Her books are fascinating and her life was even more interesting. Lim limt

Ronnie Chameau Morning Star's picture
Ronnie Chameau ...
Submitted by Ronnie Chameau ... on
I was born in St.David's Bermuda i'm 3% Native American. I got my Native name three years ago visiting Mashpee pow wow in Cape Cod

N.Starr Martin's picture
N.Starr Martin
Submitted by N.Starr Martin on
Coming from a Nation that is Matrilineal in nature,(Cherokee-Tsalagi), I am very proud of the many accomplishments of all Native American women and all Natives in general. We have survived so much and collectively and individually brought forth so much Beauty and Strength. Creator has willed it so, given us the means to do it, and by all rights it should be acknowledged, shared, and honored.I am so proud of each of us and what we have to offer the world today, as well as our respective nations.truly we are a blessed people whose new day has come. The drumbeat of Elohena's heart is still beating strong with us and among us. Wado, N. Starr Martin

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
I am shamed (as a high school librarian) for NOT knowing of this book or its author. I'm constantly looking for books written by Native authors and especially by Native women. I'll see what I can do to acquire it for our students.

danile Vann's picture
danile Vann
Submitted by danile Vann on
I am very interested she sounds like a native American Maya Angelo,

Michael Black's picture
Michael Black
Submitted by Michael Black on
I stumbled on Mourning Dove a few years ago. She mentions my great, great, great, great grandparents, the Timentwas. I saw a snippet via google books. This news of the symposium got me to actually order the book (her "autobiography", in quotes since it would seem to be more than just about her) today. My great, great, great grandmother is quite findable, a photo and some details, she's in books and I once opened a history magazine at random and there she was, but she really exists only because of who she married, and that marriage included assimilation, though I hope that wasn't her original intent. She has no voice, and ended up dying a long way from the Columbia River. Mourning Dove's book is the first instance of some real word from that side of the family. Ironic, since I can easily find a letter from one of my great, great grandmother's older brother to their grandparents (and my great, great, great, great grandparents) back in Scotland, who were much further away. So yes, Mourning Dove did give a voice to many who weren't heard. Michael
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