Adult Reading Level

THE SURROUNDED, D'Arcy McNickle, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. 1978 reprint of 1935 publication. 297 pages, introduction. 0-8263-0469-9, $8.95

McNickle, a Salish-Kutenai (Flathead), 1904-1977, writes a story of a half-blood youth, Arshile, who returns briefly (as he thinks) to his reservation after being away for a few years at an Indian school, then having some success in the white world as a violinist (which he learned via a teacher who loved music at the boarding school and created a music class secretly from the BIA). On the reservation, he comes to respect both the old people (learning his Indian mother is respected by traditional old people) and with his white heritage (he reconciles with his aging, successful-farmer father). But he sees th poverty and hopelessness of Indian people of several generations, the drinking, the fighting, the refusals of his own brothers to educate themselves or to work, and resolves to leave for good. All the good land is being farmed by whites. and all that remains of Indian life shows itself only briefly at a set-piece powwow. When he takes his mother for one last hunting trip in the mountains, she kills a game warden, who has shot his brother, bashing his head with a frypan as he is harassing them. He hides both bodies, and successfully covers up the crimes. He becomes involved with a hard-partying Indian girl, but is going to leave her and study art in Europe, with his late father's money. When his mother dies, the priest to whom she confesses tells Arshile he must turn himself in. Instead he flees to the jmountains with Elise. When they ar confronted there by the sherrff, Elise shoots him. But the Indian Agent and others have been hiding and watching, and Arshile is taken in. Instead of an artist and musician, he will be a prisoner or be executed. The surround, like the old buffalo hunt, is ofall the Indians by all the whites who moved in and made a success of farming, which the Indians are unable to do. McNickle seems in a way to have writtren a nightmare version of his own life, which didn't in fact happen to him. McNickle was a gifted youth, who when to a BIA boarding school against his traditional mother's wishes. After completing inferior education at an Oregon he completed 4 years at the University of Montana, then sold his allottment and attended Oxford and thee University of Grenoble, France. After graduating ther, he wrote this book, of a self who haed not "excaped" t become an intellectual in th white world. The book was very well received upon its publication, uniquely the literary product of an educated Indian. McNickle spent th rest of his life working for Indian people, often in employ of the BIA. He wrote several non-fiction books of Indian history: They Came Here First (1949, 1975); the influential and still-in-print Indians and Other Americans (with Harold Fey, 1959, 1970); Indian Tribes of the United States (1962); Native American Tribalism (1973), and a young people's book, Runner in the Sun, 1954, a fictional historical novel set before the coming of the white man. The Surrounded still reads well today, and gives a clear portrayal of reservation life of its period. Reviewed by Paula Giese

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Last Updated:Wednesday, April 10, 1996 - 2:39:21 AM