Each of Welch’s first two novels focused on one character and fragments of immediate families. Fools Crow, however, is as much about the protagonist’s extended family, band, and tribe as about the protagonist himself. The author has not abandoned one theme for another, replacing alienation with community; rather, he continues to work the same theme turned inside out. The interrelatedness shown in this narrative makes it possible to understand the isolation of the first two novels. Mainstream readers tend to see individualism and a certain amount of isolation as normal. This book makes it clear that the experiences of American Indians are different.
As the story begins, the main character is an uncertain adolescent, named White Man’s Dog, who has no standing among his people. After he conducts himself well on a horse-stealing raid against the Crow tribe, he gains a new name, Fools Crow, and growing status as a healer and leader.
To this extent, Fools Crow is a traditional Bildungsroman, a story of transition from youth to adulthood. Yet this work is exceptional in that as the protagonist grows, his world contracts, collapsed by white encroachment, smallpox, and repeating rifles. Survivors are left sorting through the traditional ways of thinking and healing, looking for explanations that still make sense.
Several options are shown. One Pikuni chief, Heavy Runner, chooses assimilation. He allows his...
(The entire section is 527 words.)