James Phillip Welch Jr., known as James Welch, was born on November 18, 1940, in Browning, Montana. He was an Indian poet and novelist and considered by many the founding author of the Native American Renaissance. Welch Jr.’s novel “Fools Crow” has received several national literary awards and nominations, while his debut “Winter in the Blood” was adapted in 2013 as a film by the same name.
James Phillip Welch Jr.
November 18, 1940
August 4, 2003 (age 62)
James Phillip Welch Jr. was born on November 18, 1940, in Browning, Montana. He was an Indian poet and novelist, considered a founding author of the Native American Renaissance. Welch Jr. was raised on the Blackfeet and Fort Belknap Indian reservations, leaving his state only to attend high school in Minneapolis, where his father used to work as a welder. Welch Jr. was far from being a good student and didn’t read much besides comic books and the occasional Western. In high school, things took a turn. A teacher required the class to memorize a poem every week, so Welch Jr. began to write his own.
Not knowing what else to do after transferring to the University of Montana, Welch Jr. decided to apply for an M.F.A. degree in creative writing. His grades were below average but he got accepted due to the low demand. One day, under the influence of a few drinks, he and his fellow poet friend Richard Hugo challenged one another to write a poem about the bar in Dixon where they were. They decided to set a deadline of two weeks and pledged that the poems had to be published simultaneously in a magazine. They sent them out to “The New Yorker” on a fluke, which would print all three poems in the same issue. Thus began Welch Jr.’s improbable career as a poet.
Welch Jr. was an internationally acclaimed writer. It was part of his day-to-day basis to illuminate the richness of his culture and the heartache of its dislocation. He translated Indian culture and made any Welch Jr. work a valuable resource for research in literary, American, and Native American studies. To celebrate Welch Jr. is to celebrate our own culture.
His first novel attracts immediate critical interest.
The American Book Award, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and more.
He gets an Emmy Award for the documentary “Last Stand at Little Bighorn.”
“Killing Custer: The Battle of Little Bighorn and the Fate of the Plains Indians.”
The French ministry awards him ‘Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres.’
His debut novel “Winter in the Blood” premieres as a film by the same name.
Why We Love James Welch
He keeps memories alive
As time goes by, it gets easier to forget our past but his historical fiction keeps our history alive. We love this.
He is irreplaceable
He captures the history and culture of Indians in a very particular and fascinating way. It’s hard to imagine someone else trying to do the same.
He debunked stereotypes
Through literature, he tried to debunk the clichéd idea other cultures presented of Indians. He set the stage for a remarkable era.
5 Surprising Facts
He wasn’t a great student
He didn’t like to read for a long time and he preferred playing sports.
He was intensely shy
He would only speak in class when called upon.
His early writing was imitative
He copied poems he liked in longhand and changed it to his version.
He got invited to the White House
He was called on by President Jimmy Carter but had no money to go.
He loved to travel
Welch Jr. and his wife would take a trip together to somewhere distant.
James Welch FAQs
Did James Welch Jr. have a twin?
No, he doesn’t have a twin.
What is James Welch known for?
James Welch was a prominent author of novels and poetry featuring the American West.
How did James Welch Jr. die?
He succumbed to a heart attack and died.
James Welch’s birthday dates