Article abstract: James Welch's publication of several novels and a book of poetry earned him national recognition as an American Indian writer.
James Welch received his Indian bloodline from his mother, of the Gros Ventre tribe, and from his father, of the Blackfoot tribe. Although his parents had as much Irish as Indian ancestry, for the most part he grew up in Indian territory. He attended Indian high schools in Browning and Fort Belknap, Montana.
In 1965, while Welch was a student at the University of Montana, his mother, a stenographer at the reservation agency, brought home copies of annual reports from the Fort Belknap Indian agents for 1880, 1887, and 1897. These documents excited Welch, for they offered statistics on the numerical decline of Indians and showed how reservation agents had worked to control Indians. Of greater interest was evidence that an agent had reported communication with Chief Sitting Bull who had been for a time within a few miles of the house where Welch lived. This revelation ignited Welch's interest in the history of his people.
“I wanted to write about that Highline Country in an extended way,” wrote Welch in describing the impetus for his novel Winter in the Blood (1974). Welch's book captures the feeling of vast openness of northeastern Montana's rolling plains. The novel is about a young Indian who lacks purpose in life until he discovers how Yellow Calf saved and protected an Indian maiden, an intriguing, heroic tale of his Indian grandparents. The novel's...
(The entire section is 638 words.)
James Welch, whose books have been published in nine languages, drew his material from his Native American heritage, and his work is most powerful whenever he maintains that focus. A central theme of his work is alienation. Although he offers an unsparing examination of Indian history and contemporary life, his style is frequently restrained and understated. He develops ideas through attention to detail and nuance in a way that is often a lyrical reminder of his poetic roots. As his wife Lois commented, he was “a major spokesman for Native American issues, the subject of all his writing.”
(The entire section is 98 words.)