Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Wind from an Enemy Sky is concerned largely with the inability of the Native American and dominant societies in the United States to communicate productively with each other. As McNickle presents it, Native American society is deeply suspicious of the dominant society that has, through the years, oppressed it. Promises made have seldom been promises kept. The suspicions that keep Indians from interacting productively with government agencies are spawned not by paranoia but rather by extensive bitter experience.

The dam the government built has diverted a river on which the Indians depend. The waters that the dam captures will nourish the fields of white homesteaders, to whom the government has sold Indian lands at $1.25 an acre. The Native Americans look upon these land sales as forms of robbery. Added to this justifiable charge is the charge that white officials have kidnapped Indian children and sent them to distant government schools against their will.

Among the most pervasive and impressive symbols in this novel is that of the Feather Boy medicine bundle. This sacred artifact is taken by a reservation clergyman, Stephen Welles, and given to Adam Pell’s museum in exchange for a stipend the museum bestows upon Welles’s church. Welles mendaciously assures Pell that the medicine bundle was given to the museum with the full knowledge and consent of the tribe.

As Henry Jim lies dying, he calls for the return of the...

(The entire section is 600 words.)