For various reasons, I have not done many pieces of Native Americans recently, but when I came across Mourning Dove’s story I couldn’t resist. With that, and the visual I immediately got when I saw her name, I just had to do this piece. It is currently one of my favorites, and the second piece I did using gold leaf. I’m happy with the way it turned out. As Mourning Dove’s story is a long one, even my abbreviated version, I’ll post the painting first, so you can skip the story if you’d like. I do think it’s important though.
“Mourning Dove” is oil and gold leaf on board and is 36 x 24. It will be available in my OWAS room 176 at the Heritage Inn during Art Week – coming up fast – March 15 – 18th!
Mourning Dove was the pen name of Christine Quintasket, an Interior Salish woman born in 1884. In 1904, she enrolled in the Fort Shaw Indian School which was about 30 miles from her grandparents home in Great Falls, Montana. In Montana, she witnessed the 1908 roundup of the last free-ranging bison herd, an event that had a profound effect on her. Soon thereafter, she began to develop the idea for a novel that combined traditional tribal culture with a romantic story, based around the epic buffalo roundup.
Her novel, “Cogewea, the Half-Blood”, (1927) was the first known published novel by a Native American woman. It explored the plight of the mixed blood (or “breed”), who lived in both white and Indian cultures. In it, she described centuries-old traditions with the authority of her own first-hand knowledge and experiences.
A new author, Mourning Dove felt that her editor McWhorter greatly changed her book. She wrote to him, “I felt like it was someone else’s book and not mine at all. In fact the finishing touches are put there by you, and I have never seen it.”
Over the years, Quintasket had pointedly gathered what she called “folklores” from tribal people throughout the northern Plateau region. She published “Coyote Stories” in 1933. It included editing credits to Guie and McWhorter and a foreword by Chief Standing Bear. As a result of the editing, many of the stories as published were unrecognizable to the Colville-Okanagan elders who originally told them.
After her death in 1936, the 20 folders of her miscellaneous writings were eventually organized and edited into thematic and grammatical consistency by researcher Jay Miller (b. 1947), who had worked with many elders on the Colville Reservation. These writings appeared in 1990 as “Mourning Dove: A Salishan Autobiography”.