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One of the first known novels by a Native American woman,Cogewea(1927) is the story of a half-blood girl caught between the worlds of Anglo ranchers and full-blood reservation Indians; between the craven and false-hearted easterner Alfred Densmore and James LaGrinder, a half-blood cowboy and the best rider on the Flathead; between book learning and the folk wisdom of her full-blood grandmother. The book combines authentic Indian lore with the circumstance and dialogue of a popular romance; in its language, it shows a self-taught writer attempting to come to terms with the rift between formal written style and the comfort-able rhythms and slang of familiar speech.
Mourning Dove, the author of Cogewea, was an Okanogan of eastern Washington. She lived as a migrant farmworker and, after ten-hour days in the hop fields and apple orchards, faithfully returned to the battered typewriter in her tent. Lucullus Virgil McWhorter, a respected and sympathetic student of Indian lore and history, encouraged her in her ambition to be a writer; finally she made her book a record of the folklore of the Okanogan tribe, a plea for the welfare of the half-blood, and above all the testimony to her own singleminded dedication.