Book Review: Fools Crow by James Welch

Fools Crow by James Welch
Published by Penguin on 1987
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Native American, Native American Studies, Westerns
Pages: 391

The year is 1870, and Fool’s Crow, so called after he killed the chief of the Crows during a raid, has a vision at the annual Sun Dance ceremony. The young warrior sees the end of the Indian way of life and the choice that must be made: resistance or humiliating accommodation. “A major contibution to Native American literature.” —Wallace Stegner.

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

It’s always interesting to go back and re-read a book that piqued your interest in something. I read Fools Crow in 2012 for a Non-Western Literature course during my undergraduate study as an English Literature student and it was this book that set me on the course I am following today as a first year PhD student in English Literature. It was Fools Crow that woke me up, that made me question everything I knew and set me out on a journey where the questions far out-numbered the answers.

This time, I’m reading the book in preparation for a class in Great Plains literature – and this book (along with Charcoal’s World and Waterlily) are the introductory texts for the first week in class. Already, after just reading 2 of the 3, I can see the connections and the timeline and the ways through which our discussion will be framed. Still, I couldn’t help but notice the power of dreams throughout Fool’s Crow and, after reading Waterlily, their significance stuck out even more.

For all the tragedy in Fool’s Crow, there is also beauty – beauty in the way the Pikuni people perform their kinship and loyalty, beauty in the rituals (medicine, marriage, sacred), and beauty in their names. I mean, I cannot get over how perfectly the names fit with who they were in their lives.

Fools Crow also hints at, although it does not fully explore, the budding residential school system. It interacts directly with the forming treaties, and also points out just how futile those flimsy pieces of written word are when put up against a regiment or group of “Napikwans” who are fully armed and out for blood.

Welch does not write for an audience who needs their hand held while reading. He writes in a way that demands you step into his arena and you listen to the stories of the Pikuni people on the pages.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *