Jump to content

Mourning Dove (author)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Christine Quintasket
Mourning Dove, c. 1915
Okanagan (Syilx), Arrow Lakes (Sinixit), and Colville leader
Personal details
near Bonners Ferry, Idaho
Died8 August 1936
Medical Lake, Washington
Cause of deathFlu
Resting placeOmak Memorial Cemetery, WA[1]
SpouseHector McLeod (Flathead)[2] Fred Galler (Wenatchee)[1][failed verification]
    • Joseph Quintasket (father)
    • Lucy Stukin (mother)
Known forWriting books:

Cogewea: The Half-Blood (1927)[3]
Coyote Stories (1933)[3]
Tales of the Okanogans (1976)[3]

Mourning Dove: A Salishan Autobiography (1990)[3]
NicknameMourning Dove

Mourning Dove[a] (born Christine Quintasket[1]) or Humishuma[4] was a Native American (Okanogan (Syilx), Arrow Lakes (Sinixt), and Colville) author best known for her 1927 novel Cogewea, the Half-Blood: A Depiction of the Great Montana Cattle Range and her 1933 work Coyote Stories.

Cogewea was one of the first novels to be written by a Native American woman and to feature a female protagonist. It explores the lives of Cogewea, a mixed-blood heroine whose ranching skills, riding prowess, and bravery are noted and greatly respected by the primarily mixed-race cowboys on the ranch on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The eponymous main character hires a greenhorn easterner, Alfred Densmore, who has designs on Cogewea's land, which she had received as head of household in an allotment under the Dawes Act.

Coyote Stories (1933) is a collection of what Mourning Dove called Native American folklore.[5]


Quintasket was born between 1884 and 1888[6] to Joseph Quintasket[1] and Lucy Stukin.[citation needed] Quintasket was a surname her father had taken from his stepfather.[7] She also was given an indigenous name, Humishuma.[citation needed]

Mourning Dove was a pen name chosen in adulthood when Quintasket decided to become a writer. The name was based on Colville traditional stories, Mourning Dove being the wife of Salmon who is the sustenance of life. Initially using the spelling Morning Dove, she corrected it after having visited a museum in Spokane.[8]


Humishuma, also known as Christine Quintasket, was born "in the Moon of Leaves" (April) 1888 in a canoe on the Kootenai River near Bonners Ferry, Idaho.[7][9]

Her mother Lucy Stukin was of Sinixt (Lakes) and Colville (Skoyelpi) ancestry.[10] Lucy was the daughter of Sinixt Chief Seewhelken and a Colville woman.[7] Christine spent much time with her maternal Colville grandmother, learning storytelling from her.

Christine's father was Joseph Quintasket, a mixed-race Okanagan.[7] His mother Nicola was Okanagan[10] and his father was Irish. He grew up with his mother and stepfather.[7] While living at the Colville Reservation, Christine Quintasket was enrolled as Sinixt (Lakes), but she identified as Okanogan.[10] The tribes shared related languages and some culture.

Humishuma learned English in school. She attended the Sacred Heart School at the Goodwin Mission in Ward, near Kettle Falls, Washington and later the Fort Shaw Industrial Indian School near Great Falls, Montana where she was a teacher's aide. [11] After reading The Brand: A Tale of the Flathead Reservation by Theresa Broderick, she was inspired to become a writer. She wanted to refute Broderick's derogatory view of indigenous people.[7] Her command of the English language made her valued by her fellow Natives, and she advised local Native leaders.[7] She also became active in Native politics. She helped the Okanogan tribe to gain money that was owed them. [7]

Personal life[edit]

Quintasket married Hector McLeod, a member of the Flathead people. While married to McLeod she attended Calgary College in Alberta where she studied business and composition. When McLeod proved to be an abusive husband;[7] they separated.[12] In 1919, she married again, to Fred Galler of the Wenatchi.[7][13]

Quintasket died from the flu[14] on 8 August 1936 at the state hospital in Medical Lake, Washington.[7]

Cogewea, the Half-Blood[edit]

Front cover of the University of Nebraska 1981 trade paperback edition of the book Cogewea by Mourning Dove.

Mourning Dove's 1927 novel explores a theme common in early Native American fiction: the plight of the mixedblood (or "breed"), who lives in both white and Indian cultures. Typically mixed-race Native Americans had Indian mothers and white fathers. Many such unions originated between fur traders or trappers and indigenous women. Later other explorers also married Native American women. There were strong alliances created between tribes and traders in the marriage of their daughters to Europeans.

In the novel, Cogewea has two sisters Julia (older) and Mary. After their Okanogan mother dies, their white father leaves them to join the Alaskan gold rush, joining tens of thousands of men migrating there. Their maternal grandmother Stemteemä raises the girls as Okanogan. After Julia marries a white rancher, she takes in her younger sisters at his ranch located within the boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation. (Many whites purchased properties within reservations in the West.)

Cogewea is soon courted by Alfred Densmore, a white suitor from the East Coast, and James LaGrinder, the ranch foreman, who is mixed race. Her sisters had opposing views of these men: Julia approves of Densmore but Mary is suspicious of him. Cogewea and Jim reach a happy ending.


Mourning Dove collaborated on this work with her editor Lucullus Virgil McWhorter, a white man who studied and advocated for Native Americans.

Mourning Dove was a new author, and she felt that McWhorter as editor greatly changed her book. In one of her letters to him, she wrote:

"I have just got through going over the book 'Cogewea,' 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 else's book and not mine at all. In fact the finishing touches are put there by you, and I have never seen it".[15]

Mourning Dove agreed to the changes, later writing to him: "My book of Cogewea would never have been anything but the cheap foolscap paper that it was written on if you had not helped me get it in shape. I can never repay you back."[2]

The novel is one of the earliest written by a Native American woman and published in the United States, and one of the earliest novels by a Native American to feature a female protagonist. It followed Wynema, a Child of the Forest (1891) by Muscogee (Creek) author Sophia Alice Callahan, which was rediscovered in the late 20th century and published in 1997 in a scholarly edition.

A scholarly edition of Cogewea was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 1981 and has yet to be out of print.

Front cover (dust jacket) of the Caxton Printers 1933 first edition of the book Coyote Stories by Mourning Dove.

Coyote Stories[edit]

In 1933, Mourning Dove published Coyote Stories, a collection of legends told to her by her grandmother and other tribal elders.

The foreword by Chief Standing Bear in this book includes these words: "These legends are of America, as are its mountains, rivers, and forests, and as are its people. They belong!"

Literary influences[edit]

Mourning Dove learned storytelling from her maternal grandmother, and from Teequalt, an elder who lived with her family when the girl was young.[7] She was also influenced by pulp-fiction novels, which her adopted brother Jimmy Ryan let her read.[7] She cited the novel The Brand: A Tale of the Flathead Reservation by Therese Broderick as inspiring her to begin writing. She was moved to counter what she thought was a derogatory representation of indigenous culture in Broderick's novel.[7]


  • Cogewea: The Half-Blood (1927)[3]
  • Coyote Stories (1933)[3] (27 stories) (229 pages)
In Spanish as: Cuentos Indios del Coyote, Paloma Triste (Mourning Dove)
Shorter (17 stories) English version as: Mourning Dove's Stories[b] (117 pages) (1991)
  • Tales of the Okanogans (1976)[3]
  • Mourning Dove: A Salishan Autobiography (1990)[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Humishuma (Mourning Dove – not a direct translation), as provided by Mourning Dove herself in her introduction to Cogewea: "The whiteman must have invented the name for it as Mourning Dove because the translation to Indian is not word for word at all." Okanogan women names refer to water, not birds or animals.[citation needed]
  2. ^ The 17 stories are:
    1. "Ant"
    2. "Rivals last stand"
    3. "Legend of Omak lake"
    4. "Lynx and wife"
    5. "Lynx the hunter"
    6. "One who follows"
    7. "How disease came to the people"
    8. "Coyote the medicine man"
    9. "Coyote's daughter"
    10. "Coyote and fox"
    11. "Blind dog monster"
    12. "Coyote is punished"
    13. "Wooing grizzly bear"
    14. "Coyote and whale monster"
    15. "North wind monster"
    16. "Coyote brings the salmon"
    17. "Salmon and rattlesnake"


  1. ^ a b c d John Brent Musgrave. "Mourning Dove: Chronicler and Champion of the Okanagan People". Retrieved 2012-02-02.
  2. ^ a b Arloa. "Mourning Dove, (Christal Quintasket)". Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2012-02-02.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Carol Miller. "Mourning Dove (Christine Quintasket)". Retrieved 2012-02-02.
  4. ^ "Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest". www.washington.edu. Retrieved 2023-06-04.
  5. ^ See Dexter Fisher's introduction to the University of Nebraska edition of Cogewea, p. viii.
  6. ^ Nisbet, Jack and Claire (7 August 2010). "Mourning Dove (Christine Quintasket) (ca. 1884-1936)". HistoryLink.org. Retrieved 19 April 2017. One day between 1884 and 1888, according to family lore, a woman of Lakes and Colville ancestry named Lucy Stukin (d. 1902) was canoeing across the Kootenai River in north Idaho when she went into labor.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n ABC Book World. "Dove, Mourning". Retrieved 2012-02-02.
  8. ^ Bowering, George (Spring 1995). "The Autobiographings of Mourning Dove". Canadian Literature. S15 (144): 32. Retrieved 5 June 2023. Then she decided that the English version of her writer's name would be Morning Dove, because that bird is, in Colville legend, the faithful wife of Salmon, and welcomes him upstream every year. Salmon-fishing is the sustenance of life for the peoples of the great Interior Plateau. In a museum in Spokane, Christine saw that the proper spelling was Mourning Dove, and though she said that it was because of that connotation not the same bird known to the Indian people, she settled on Mourning Dove as her writing name. That is the story of Mourning Dove's name.
  9. ^ Mourning Dove, Coyote Stories, University of Nebraska Press, 1990, p10
  10. ^ a b c Brown, Alanna K. "Mourning Dove," in Andrew Wiget's Dictionary of Native American Literature, 1994, ISBN 0-8153-1560-0, p145
  11. ^ Arnold, Laurie (2017). "More than Mourning Dove: Christine Quintasket—Activist, Leader, Public Intellectual". Montana: The Magazine of Western History. 67 (1): 33. ISSN 0026-9891. JSTOR 26322854. Retrieved 4 June 2023.
  12. ^ Arnold, Laurie (Spring 2017). "More than Mourning Dove: Christine Quintasket—Activist, Leader, Public Intellectual". Montana The Magazine of Western History. 67 (1): 33. JSTOR 26322854. Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  13. ^ Marshall, Maureen E. Wenatchee's Dark Past. Wenatchee, Wash: The Wenatchee World, 2008.
  14. ^ Ryals, Mitch (5 September 2017). "Powerful Spirit: A Colville novelist and public intellectual relished her role as a bridge between cultures". No. Annual Manual. The Inlander. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  15. ^ Jack and Claire Nisbet. "Mourning Dove (Christine Quintasket) (ca. 1884-1936), Essay 9512". HistoryLink.org. Retrieved 2012-02-07.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bataille, Gretchen M., Native American Women: a Biographical Dictionary, pp. 178–179.
  • Bloom, Harold, Native American Women Writers, pp. 69–82.
  • Buck, Claire, The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature, p. 838.
  • Witales, Janet, et al., Native North American Literary Companion.
  • Arnold, Laurie, "More than Mourning Dove: Christine Quintasket – Activist, Leader, Public Intellectual," Montana: The Magazine of Western History.

External links[edit]

Front cover (without dust jacket) of the Coyote Stories by Mourning Dove, Caxton Printers 1933 first edition.
Front cover (without dust jacket) of the Coyote Stories by Mourning Dove, Caxton Printers 1933 first edition.