Mourning Dove was the pen name of Christine Quintasket, an Interior Salish woman who collected tribal stories among Northern Plateau peoples in the early twentieth century. She described centuries-old traditions with the authority of first-hand knowledge, and also wrote a novel based on her experiences. Like her African-American contemporary Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960), Mourning Dove’s reputation as a female ethnographer and writer has grown steadily over the past few decades. Her novel, Cogewea, is the first known published novel by a Native American woman.
Growing up at Kettle Falls
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. She gave birth while the boat was partway across the river, and wrapped the newborn girl, whom she named Christine, in the steersman's shirt. Although other sources give her birthplace as Boyds, Washington (above Kettle Falls), a canoe birth would have been an appropriate beginning for a woman who would travel restlessly through the Intermountain West and battle against prevailing social, cultural, artistic, and political currents for the rest of her life.
Christine's father, Joseph Quintasket, belonged to the Nicola band of the Okanagan tribe of British Columbia, but the family lived in Lucy Stukin's homeland on the upper Columbia. Christine spent her formative years with several brothers and sisters near Kettle Falls, where her maternal grandmother taught her traditional Plateau lifeways. She spoke Salish as her first language, and during her childhood joined in the great salmon fishery at Kettle Falls each summer. An older woman named Teequalt, who lived with the family, contributed to her spiritual teachings. An adopted white orphan named Jimmy Ryan taught Christine to