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Chapter 4 From "Half-Blood" to "Mixedblood": Cogewea and the "Discourse of Indian Blood" For Louis Owens Dismantling the intricate edifice of racism embodied in "Indian blood" is not simply a matter of exposing its essentialism and discarding its associated policies, but a more delicate and complicated task: that is, acknowledging "Indian blood" as a discourse of conquest with manifold and contradictory effects, but withoutinvalidating rights and resistances that have been couched in terms of that very discourse. — Pauline Turner Strong and Barrik van Winkle1 Published in 1927, and until recently thought the "first" novel by aNative American woman,2 Mourning Dove's Cogewea: The Half-Blood was paid little criticalattention until 1978, when Charles Larson commented upon it in an appendix to his American Indian Fiction in regard to the issue of dual authorship. Mourning Dove—or Hum-ishu-ma, also known as Christine Haines and Christine or ChrystalQuintasket —this isto say, had completed a first draft of the novel in the years 1912-14, but, after meeting Lucullus Virgil McWhorter, a white businessman with a keen interest in NativeAmerican culture and in federal Indian policy,worked with him in the winter of 1915-16 to revise the text. Finding a publisher in the years of the First World War and immediately after proved difficult, and, in 1922, McWhorter undertook his own independent revision, expanding the text byadding passages critical of the government's Indian policy and "elevating" Cogewea's diction in many places. Although Cogeweabe'drs a From "Half-Blood" to "Mixedblood" 77 copyright date of 1927, it appears that books were not available untilJune 1928, and it was only then that Mourning Dove herself saw the changes made by McWhorter. Cogewea was for years out of print until the University of Nebraska Press reissued it in 1981 with an introduction by Dexter Fisher (Alice Poindexter Fisher), a revised version of part of her 1979 dissertation on Mourning Dove and Zitkala Sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin). Since that time, Jay Miller has done important editing work on Mourning Dove's autobiographical manuscripts, and Alanna Kathleen Brown—who has substantial disagreements with Miller3 —has provided much of the major criticism. Of the two epigraphs Louis Owens chose for his study of the Native American novel, OtherDestinies (1992), one is a quotation from Mourning Dove's Cogewea: The Half-Blood and one is from Gerald Vizenor's "Crows Written on the Poplars," an autobiographical text published in 1987. Both refer to "Indian blood," and taken together the two passages may be read as marking a shift in NativeAmerican literature from Cogeweds view of the constraints on the "half-blood" early in the twentieth century to Vi/enor's very different sense of more open possibilitiesfor the "mixedblood " nearer the century's end. The two epigraphs also serve to contextualize and historicize Owens's dedication of his book, "For mixedbloods, the next generation." This chapter, dedicated to Louis Owens, attempts to elaborate and expand on his insights into Cogeweas depiction of the situation of the "half-blood" in the period just before and after the First World War. My cosmopolitan commitment to comparativism will place "the discourse of Indian blood"4 in the broader context ofwhat F.H.Matthews has called "'20's Americanism," and a racism directed at blacks and other immigrants perceived as not-quite-white, as well as against Native American people. The epigraph Owens chose from Cogewea quotes her on the plight of Native persons of mixed parentage or "blood" as follows: "Yes, we are between two fires, the Red and the White. Our Caucasian brothers criticize us as a shiftless class, while the Indians disown us as abandoning our own race. We are maligned and traduced as no one but we of the despised 'breeds' can know." Owens's quotation from Gerald Vizenor, who wrote some sixty years later, offers a very different view of the "mixedblood ." Rather than passive subjects, "mixedbloods," Vizenor tells us, actively "loosen the seams in the shrouds of identities."5 Now, just past the turn of the twenty-first century, it is apparent that Vizenor was at once both accurate and prophetic. 78 Chapter 4 By 1987, Native mixedbloods, along with a range of biracial, interracial , and multiracial persons, had already complicated the most common American racial categories, in particular the dominant category, white, or as Mourning Dove put it, "Caucasian." For all that race in America remains, as it always has been, a matter foremost of black and white, nonetheless, looking...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780812200683
Related ISBN
9780812218039
MARC Record
OCLC
759037221
Pages
184
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-21
Language
English
Open Access
No
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