James Welch Additional Biography


(Critical Survey of Native American Literature)

Author Profile

Born of a Blackfoot father and Gros Ventre mother, Welch grew up in an Indian environment, and the traditions and religion especially of the Blackfoot inform his writing. He attended the University of Montana, where he received his B.A. degree. As an adjunct professor he teaches writing and Indian studies at the University of Montana.

Much of Welch’s fiction pivots on the interaction between the American Indian and white America. In Winter in the Blood (1974), Welch presents a nameless protagonist who feels displaced, caught between two worlds, helpless in a world of stalking white men, but unaccepted by Indians—a stranger to both. Similarly, in The Death of Jim Loney (1979), Welch portrays a half-blood who is unable to find a place in either world. Different from his first two novels, Fools Crow (1986) is a historical novel set in the 1870’s which depicts Fools Crow, who attempts to live a traditional Blackfoot life in the context of white settlement and the U.S. government’s war against Plains Indians. Welch includes episodes from Blackfoot oral narrative and describes traditional ceremonies. The Indian Lawyer (1990) tells the story of an Indian who is torn about how best to help his people: law practice and politics or on the reservations themselves, while his own worst enemy is himself. The poetry collection Riding the Earthboy 40 (1971) is best for its protest...

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(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although James Welch’s father was Blackfeet (Welch preferred that to Blackfoot) and his mother, Gros Ventres, was connected with the Arapaho, Welch claimed to be as much Irish as he was Indian. He grew up and attended schools on the Blackfeet reservation in Browning and the Gros Ventre reservation at Fort Belknap, both in northern Montana. His family moved to Minneapolis, where he graduated from high school in 1958. He has described himself as a “mediocre student” who preferred athletics to reading and who scribbled bad poems during study hall. He briefly attended the University of Minnesota before leaving school to work on a natural gas pipeline and as a groundskeeper in a cemetery. He attended Northern Montana College in...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

James Welch, whose various writings present the American Indians of his native Montana, was born to a mother of the Gros Ventre tribe and a father of the Blackfoot tribe. He attended reservation schools but graduated from a high school in Minneapolis. From the University of Montana in Missoula he received a B.A. degree in 1965 and a master’s degree in 1967. He settled with his wife in Missoula, Montana. He died there of a heart attack in 2003, at the age of sixty-two.

The title of his collection of fifty-four poems, Riding the Earthboy Forty, refers to a family named Earthboy who had a ranch of forty acres. The poem that lends its name to the volume describes a first-person narrator responding romantically...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

James Phillip Welch was born in Browning, Montana, the administrative center of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and attended school on the Blackfeet and Fort Belknap reservations as a boy. His father, James, Sr., a member of the Blackfeet, was a rancher, welder, and hospital administrator for the Indian Health Service. His mother, Rosella O’Bryan Welch, a member of the Gros Ventre tribe, worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Welch attended the University of Minnesota and Northern Montana College before completing a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Montana in 1965. The following year he began a master’s program in creative writing with poet Richard Hugo. In an interview, Welch credited Hugo, who...

(The entire section is 555 words.)