The Indian Lawyer, perhaps Welch’s least rewarding novel, follows the career of Sylvester Yellow Calf, a successful urban attorney in an otherwise white firm. He is the descendant of earlier Welch characters, Fools Crow’s outcast Yellow Kidney and Winter in the Blood’s blind Yellow Calf. Even as a respected member of the Montana State Board of Pardons and the newest partner in a prestigious Helena law firm, Sylvester feels alienated. He is not completely comfortable in either the white or the Indian world and is viewed suspiciously by many.
Abandoned by his alcoholic parents, Sylvester grew up on the Blackfeet reservation, where he was cared for by loving grandparents—although his grandmother, a tribal elder, felt ashamed that the boy preferred the outside world to the tribal. He became the star of his high school championship basketball team, but his life changed abruptly when a white sportswriter, praising his leadership and intelligence, called him a “winner for all minorities.” This well-meaning salute shattered the team’s unity by setting Sylvester above and apart from the others, thus violating the Indian sense of community, and his teammates grew resentful. While basketball earned him a scholarship to the University of Montana, he ultimately graduated from Stanford Law School. In many respects, Sylvester has rejected his heritage, symbolized by the medicine pouch of his warrior great-great-grandfather and...
(The entire section is 474 words.)