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Story of the Blackfoot Indian Tribe

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    White Man’s Dog, a Channel of Dreams and Visions as Portrayed in James Welch’s “Fools Crow”

    Fools Crow recounts a story of the Blackfoot Indian tribe which is now known to be already non-existent. It tells a story of a young boy, White-Man’s-Dog’s struggle to succeed and survive the challenges faced by his tribe. The story reflects the historical events which took place during the time when the Blackfoot Indian tribe’s territories where threatened to be claimed and possessed by the United States government. This makes the story significant not just because of its literary value but as well as its historical value. Generally, Fools Crow revolved around the desire of the young White-Man’s-Dog for recognition in his community. This desire to conform and identify with the members of his tribe pushed White-Man’s-Dog to seek several thrilling adventures and challenging obstacles in having an identity and saving his tribe’s future.


    White-Man’s-Dog, who is also known as Fools Crow knows well about the gifts of people in his tribe. There will always come a special time in the lives of the members of the tribe when they shall meet their animal helper which shall sing them a sacred song while transferring a supernatural ability. This event in the life of a Blackfoot will always be envisioned in a dream first. And this is what White-Man’s-Dog has always anticipated. He always desired to finally see prophecies and dreams so that he could be considered as gifted member of the tribe already. The entirety of the story actually delved on the central idea of dreams. Dreams and visions where the tribe’s guidance and predictors of what will come and what fates their people shall experience. It possessed such a relevant role in the tribe’s existence and its leaders have very well relied on these premonitions; that although some leaders have even doubted some dreamer’s moral character, but then the people’s attitude about any certain dream were have long been so trusting and confident thinking, “such a powerful dream cannot be ignored” (Welch 14). In the story, dreams are considered prophecies. And no matter how absurd and unrealistic the dream may appear, this will always be used as the tribe’s reference for survival. In several ways, White-Man’s-Dog’s character also revolved mainly around the concept of dreams. From the middle part towards the end of the story, White-Man’s-Dog already saw visions and led his tribe to safety and protection many time. He was also able to find his animal helper through the dreams he had. And through out his whole life as portrayed in the story, dreams and visions remained his sole reference and guide in his quest to preserve his tribe’s existence and find his own happiness.

    Aside for the idea of dreams and visions, one observable theme that the story possessed is the concept of magic and mysticism. The story told a lot about magical creatures which spoke to people in their dreams. The story also made mention of some mystical objects and badges which possessed different messages and signs to the Blackfoot people. White-Man’s-Dog, being the main personage in the tale went through a lot of ventures which all concerned mysticism and magic. His character can be seen to be molded in a mystical and a supernatural kind of way since almost all the objects and the concepts around his character were made of such magical ideas. This aspect of White-Man’s-Dog’s character portrayal also helped in making the depiction of his personality more interesting and lasting in the readers’ minds. Also, considering that mystical beliefs and genuine parts of the Blackfoot Indian tradition this has also added to the perceived historic and cultural significance imparted by the events of the story.

    Aside from these themes, it has also been apparent that the story told a lot about the tendency of young people to turn their backs on their responsibilities in their pursuit of personal desires and wishes (Umphrey 1). The story took place during White-Man’s-Dog’s youth. Thus, majority of his adventures, dares and mishaps were all run by his strong, playful and daring age. Most of the time, White-Man’s-Dog was always thinking about his identity as a significant member of the tribe. He was also thinking about the ways he could possible help save their tribe from losing its territory and heritage. However, as it appears there were also times when his youthful urges and desires would take over him overriding his goals and plans for his family and tribe. This is completely understandable about White-Man’s-Dog’s character. As a young man, he may be burdened by the crises faced by his tribe, and he may be doing everything he can as a young man to help the group save their existence. However, it cannot be denied that White-Man’s-Dog is in the peak of his youth. And during this time, it appears understandable that he may have several urges, wants and desires that only his youthful adventures can fulfill. This reality has been clearly depicted in the story. But nevertheless, one character which can be seen pleasant about White-Man’s-Dog is his determination to keep up with his goals, sacrificing his unnecessary desires for the common plan of his people.

    In many scenes in the story, morality and taboos were also dealt with. However the most observable depiction of these concepts can be seen in the part of the story where White-Man’s-Dog was already having sexual desires for his father’s young mistress, Kills-close-to-the-lake. White-Man’s-Dog understands that this desire is unacceptable that was why he tried so hard not to give in to the burning temptation between them. This theme of the story may have in many ways reflected a youth’s weaker will against temptation compared to the elders since it was mentioned in the story that White-Man’s-Dog eventually gave in and made love to his young step-mother. Morality can indeed be one of the most important determinants of an individual’s identity. And in White-Man’s-Dog’s tale, this truth was also reflected. Morality in every culture, tribe, ethnicity and race is indeed a universal concept which defines the limitations of an individual’s actions. Morality together with all the themes and ideas this tales talked about all added to the color and dynamic tone of the story which made it rather compelling and affective for the readers in both the historical and cultural sense. However, although this story has been very much acclaimed, several critics were still able to pin point some flaws and faults made by Welch.

    Critical Reception

    The mysticism and magical depiction of some characters and objects in this story were seen by some critics as rather unbelievable and unrealistic for the modern readers to take (Lupton 98). Critics claim that it was rather wrong of Welch to delve too much on the superstition and mysticism of the past since the current generation is not anymore the generation where ravens can speak and wolverines can chant a powerful song (98). Aside from this, Welch’s aim to portray the alienation of Indians from the white Americans was seen by most critics to have failed considering the landscapes and settings described in the story. Some critics recalled that there were even no definite limits, fences, freeways and boundaries where in estrangement and hostility can be felt by the readers (99). This was just another glitch that critics often noted about this work of Welch.

    But nevertheless, Fools Crow proved to transcend all culture and ethnicities in making readers of every color and race appreciate the wonderful history and heritage of the Blackfoot Indians. Also, through the well-molded character of White-Man’s-Dog, the story has indeed portrayed and depicted what it is like to struggle in making a significant role, identity and recognition in the society as a youth.

    Works Cited

    Lupton, Mary Jane. James Welch: A Critical Companion. Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. (2004).

    Umphrey, Michael L. “We are stronger, wiser for having read Jim Welch.” Montana Heritage Project. (13 July 2008). (05 March 2009). <>.

    Welch, James. Fools Crow. New York: Penguin Books. (1987). (pg. 14)


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