The Surrounded

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Educated at a federal boarding school, Archilde is torn between white and Indian cultures, and between love for his Spanish father and his Indian mother, who in her old age is rejecting white culture and religion to return to the ways of her people.

Available in paperback only.  The Surrounded, by D’Arcy McNickle.  1978, 305 pages.

“Here he was, the best of her sons, and the youngest, home again after a year—but would he stay? She had only a faint idea of where he had been; the world out that way was so unlike Sniél-emen; she had even less of an idea of what he did when he went away.”

As The Surround opens, Archilde Leon has just returned from the big city to his father’s ranch on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana. The story that unfolds captures the intense and varied conflicts that already characterized reservation life in 1936, when this engrossing novel was first published.

Educated at a federal boarding school, Archilde is torn not only between white and Indian cultures, but between love for his Spanish father and his Indian mother, who in her old age is rejecting white culture and religion to return to the ways of her people. Archilde’s young contemporaries, meanwhile, are succumbing to the destructive influence of reservation life, growing increasingly uprooted, dissolute, hopeless. Although Archilde plans to leave the reservation after a brief visit, his entanglements delay his departure until he faces destruction by the white man’s law.

In an early review of The Surrounded, Oliver La Farge included it in his “small list of creditable modern novels using the first Americans as a theme.” The Surrounded is still considered one of the best works of fiction by or about Native Americans.

A distinguished anthropologist and writer, and one of the founders of the National Congress of American Indians, the late D’Arcy McNickle (1904-1977) was a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes of Montana.

Publisher: University of New Mexico Press
Culture Group: Salish