Kit’s Crit: Cogewea – The Half-Blood (Mourning Dove)

Cogewea: The Half-Blood

(Mourning Dove)


Cogewea is a “breed” or “half-blood,” a young woman stuck in the liminal world between two cultures.  Her grandmother gave her the tales of her Native American heritage, but she lives on her white bother-in-law’s ranch on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The book a romantic pulp fiction, yet the narrator offers some unique observations from the author’s own first-hand experiences, highlighting the emotional and psychological pressures of finding a comfortable place in an ever-changing world.

Cogewea is one of the first novels to be written by a First Nations female author.  Mourning Dove (Hum-Ishu-Ma) toiled for ten hours each day out in the fields, then typed her manuscript at night in her tent.  It was later edited by Lucullus Virgil McWhorter.  And although there are few surprises for the modern reader, it is hard not to admire the writer’s drive and dedication.  Mourning Dove had a limited education, no role models, and the hardships of poverty to overcome.  The language she uses is flowery and antiquated yet her insights into a vanished era are invaluable.  This is an important book from a historical perspective.  I would, however, only recommend it to readers with an academic interest in women writers or Native American literature.

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