A Clash of Cultures:A Study of James Welch’s Fools Crow

Brian Stampe


James Welch’s novel, Fools Crow, is a historical fiction set in Montana during the 1870’s. Welch paints a horrific yet intriguing tale between two colliding cultures. The reader quickly becomes empathetic towards the Blackfoot’s way of understanding the world and how the Europeans are quickly changing it. The Europeans set out west to Manifest Destiny and spread their “superior” seed and ideologies. They came into the Blackfoot world completely unaware and apathetic of the Blackfoot paradigm. The imposing Europeans see the world in terms of progress. The urge to improve one’s surroundings by manipulating the environment is an age-old European idea. It has given humanity many things: science, innovation, and technology. It has also supplied humanity with a purpose; that through progress some sort of end goal may be reached. Reality is never ideal and therefore a progressive paradigm is constantly seeking to improve the present, never allowing for contentment. The ideology of the Blackfoot people contrasts starkly with this idea of progress. One of the main tenets of their paradigm is that of balance. An obvious example of the contrasting paradigms is how the Europeans changed the Blackfoot’s way of sustaining themselves. They replaced the nomadic “black horns” with the domestic “white horns” causing a complete disruption of how this once nomadic culture survived and dealt with the world. However, it was not just an ecological imbalance that occurred with the clash of the cultures but an imbalance of family relations and their paradigm of life. Fools Crow shows how progress clashes with balance and inevitably destroys it.


culture, balance, progress

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