Jamake Highwater Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Jamake Highwater first gained fame as a leading advocate of American Indian culture, as his works exemplified the painful cultural gulf confronting American Indians in the twentieth century. In the mid-1980’s, however, Highwater’s life and works were called into question as his claim of American Indian ancestry was challenged by journalists, scholars, and some Indian activists and writers, such as Vine DeLoria, Jr.{$S[A]Marks, J.;Highwater, Jamake}

Until that time, Highwater maintained that he was descended from American Indians on both sides of the family, while the details of his childhood remained sketchy. He said that he was born in Glacier County, Montana, on February 14, 1942, and that his mother, Amana Bonneville Highwater, was part French Canadian and part Blackfoot Indian. His early years were said to be spent on the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana and at the tribe’s summer encampments in Alberta, Canada. His father, Jamie, was an Eastern Cherokee born in the South who worked as a rodeo, circus, and carnival hand and as a stuntman. When he was eight years old, Highwater accompanied his father to Hollywood, where Jamie Highwater died in an accident. One account said Jamake was about six years old when the fatal accident occurred. About four years later, his mother placed him in an orphanage, from where he was adopted by Alexander and Marcia Marks, a white family living in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. A different story said that he stayed at the orphanage until his mother remarried and that Alexander Marks was his stepfather.

When these versions of Highwater’s early life were questioned, Highwater eventually suggested that some of the details had been invented. He was probably born between 1930 and 1933, place and exact date unknown. He was given up for adoption by his mother when he was about five years old and lived most of his childhood in the San Fernando Valley. His adoptive parents were named Marks, and he was known as Jay or Jack Marks. In his youth, he became acquainted with a number of writers, including James Leo Herlihy and Anais Nïn, who encouraged his writing ambitions. He also attended good schools, which prepared him to earn degrees later in cultural anthropology, comparative literature, and music.

Highwater moved to San Francisco and formed a modern dance company. In 1967, he relocated to New York City. His first two books, published under the name J. Marks, Rock and Other Four Letter...

(The entire section is 1010 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Portions of the biography of Jamake Highwater are open to question. Until the mid-1980’s, Highwater maintained that he was born in Glacier County, Montana, on February 14, 1942, and that his mother, Amana Bonneville, was of the Blackfeet Nation (or was part Blackfoot and part French Canadian) and his father, Jamie, was a Cherokee. His early years, he said, were spent on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana and in Alberta, Canada, where the Blackfeet people held their summer encampments. At the age of eight, Highwater went to Hollywood with his father, a founding member of the American Indian Rodeo Association and a stunt man in Western films. Highwater said he lived in an orphanage after his father was killed in an automobile accident until his mother remarried. His stepfather, Alexander Marks, a white man, adopted him.

In the mid-1980’s, this version of Highwater’s life story was called into question by journalists and scholars. Highwater himself eventually intimated that he had invented some of the details. As a result, a new effort was made to construct his biography. The following represents a general consensus.

Highwater was born probably between 1930 and 1933. The place and date of his birth are unknown because he was given up for adoption by his mother. He was adopted when he was about five years old and lived most of his childhood in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. He was known as Jay or Jack Marks, Marks being the...

(The entire section is 469 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Jamake (pronounced Juh-MAH-kuh) Highwater was born on February 14, 1942, in Glacier County, Montana. His father, Jamie Highwater, an Eastern...

(The entire section is 343 words.)