A few weeks ago, I found an entry in the Church History Library about an Indian woman who had adopted a white child. There was almost no information about the document in the library catalog. I immediately asked for it to be digitized but questions about the location of the original document meant that it was impossible for it to put online. I eventually asked Joseph Stuart, a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah to look at it for me.
Here’s the summary he provided:
“Rose tells the story of a ‘Squaw’ Kaibab [a band of Paiutes] woman named ‘Mourning Dove’ [also called Ayoba by her people, the Kaibab]. She adopts a white child whose parents were murdered by an African American cook on their way to California. The uncle of the child arrives with a nurse and takes the baby from Mourning Dove. She goes into a deep depression and the author ‘almost felt like a cowardly murderer for letting them take her baby.’ (9) He wanted to give her back, because ‘he’d have a mother’s love such as few white boys are ever lucky enough to know.’ (9) The baby is left with the nurse in Tuba City by the white uncle because it becomes too sick to travel. The author learns this from a Navajo named ‘Moon’ who says that he saw the baby alive.
The author learns that Mourning Dove has been abducted by Moon and the Navajoes [sic], and sets off to rescue her with the help of the Kaibab. The Kaibab refuse to cross the river to reach the Navajo because of their religious beliefs about crossing the big river. She is taken away, and the author decides to wait to be able to cross the river.
The author writes about MD’s grandfather, ‘Old Blind Jim,’ an elder in the Kaibab community. When the author catches up to Moon, the Navajo will not speak to him. ‘Blind Jim’ executes Moon with a bow and arrow for murdering a woman who saved Mourning Dove’s life. The baby is still alive. The Navajo had not captured Mourning Dove; she had been chasing the child. ‘Dr. Lyon’ saves Mourning Dove and ‘Little Jim’ is allowed to go to college. Little Jim is presumably the white infant.
**Handwritten note at end**: I guess you read in the papers about the young painter who won the Exeter medal with the ‘Madonna of the Painted Desert?’ well, that was our Jim.”
There are many questions about this piece:
- Who is Will Rose?
- Is the piece fiction? Local history?
- Did any of the figures in the story actually exist?
Joseph and I have had trouble locating any of the people mentioned in the story. Even the painting comes up with nothing. And, so we turn to you, JI readers, does anyone know anything about this story?