Loney Took a Sip of His Whiskey
He listened to the north wind whistle over the stovepipe above them
Boozhoo! Aaniin! Welcome to another edition of An Irritable Métis. In this edition you will find no trace of irritability. It’s true! While I am striving to present a kinder, gentler, more hopeful demeanor to the world (*cough*) this time around it’s more because I just have some cool news to share. And if you feel like you would like to contribute to the fund to keep the sun shining around here, well feel free….
Friends, I’ve mentioned it in passing, but now the glory is upon us. Next weekend, July 28 – 30, we unleash the James Welch Native Lit Festival on the world. From the official website:
There is no space in America for Native artists to talk publicly about our work with each other. This festival will be that place, open to anyone interested in this extraordinary conversation. Join us for an inaugural event celebrating the beauty of Native literature and the legacy of James Welch, one of the greatest and most original of Native writers.
I was part of the planning committee for several months last year and it’s something I’ve been excited about for a long time. The guy whose brainchild this is, Sterling HolyWhiteMountain, has been my friend for years. Lois Welch, Jim Welch’s wife, has also become a wonderful part of my life. So this celebration is very much a celebration of people I care about; of people influenced by the singular work of James Welch.
I don’t know what else there is to say about it beyond urging anyone who can get here for it to GET HERE FOR IT.
And remember, it’s all free!
But here’s some more stuff. I wrote a little piece for the Missoulian that you may read HERE. An excerpt, related to a trip I made to Havre two years ago for a One-Sentence Journal event:
I brought one book with me: a battered old mass-market paperback edition of “The Death of Jim Loney” by James Welch. What other writer’s company could I want for a long, reflective weekend on Montana’s Hi-Line than the region’s ultimate storyteller? Jim Welch is that; particularly the “Jim Loney” novel, but also “Winter in the Blood,” which introduced the Blackfeet writer to the world, and especially “Fools Crow,” the novel that solidified his position as an important American writer. For all the proclivities of people who bring up such discussions to hand the “most important Montana book” accolades to white authors from somewhere else going on-and-on about how Montana they are, I proclaim Welch’s “Fools Crow” to be that Most Important Book, Welch that Most Important Writer.
I’m sure this won’t be the last time I’ll talk about any of this in the next week. In the meantime, you can dig a PDF of the festival schedule HERE. I’ll be lumbering around the thing off-and-on the whole weekend, but specifically I’m involved in the following things:
Friday, 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. — Montana Writers Read (depending on how many readers, I’ll read 5-10 minutes)
Saturday, 10 - 11:30 a.m. — Nonfiction / Memoir: Sasha LaPointe / Chris La Tray / Susan Devan Harness / Tailyr Irvine
Saturday, 2 - 4 p.m. — Lois Welch Reads / Debra Earling Talks / Open Mic: Remembering Jim (if time allows, I’ll participate in the Open Mic)
Saturday, 8 - 10 p.m. — “We Talk, You Listen": Tommy Orange / Kelli Jo Ford / Brandon Hobson (I’m moderating this discussion!)
If you do show up and we’ve never met, please introduce yourself! If we have met and I seem confused it’s because I’ve probably forgotten, so please introduce yourself!
Still Taking Orders!
I slumped into the chair at my old desk at Fact & Fiction and signed the first batch of orders for the new Wildsam Western Montana guide that includes my “Cart Trails” essay. There were 70-something of them to sign, which is awesome. Still, we can do better! I’m going to keep on this for another week or two. I’ll be back next week to sign more, so if you’re thinking about it, the time is now!
A poem from Jim Welch’s Riding the Earthboy 40, of course….
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Thanks, Chris, for this lovely tribute/ announcement! Too many moving parts to comment in detail— pun intended. You cannot believe how profoundly moving it is to see how Jim’s legacy was growing even out of sight to me during these 19 years of grief & remembrance.
I grieve that I can’t be there for the 1st Annual James Welch literary festival. It will be epic. I will be there for the second annual. And I will introduce myself.
In the meantime, I am stoked that my college library at Southern Oregon U. has Jim Loney and Riding Earthboy, which I will pick up today in an effort to join y’all in spirit, at least.
Winter in the Blood was a transformational text for me. To this day, I think of overcoming myself and overcoming worldly obstacles as pulling that cow out of the mud.
I recall the debut of the film version in Bozeman vividly, as the Q&A afterward involved the wonderful Lois Welch, along with the brothers from Missoula who made the film, the inestimable Michael Spears, Sherman, and an audience full of folks collectively moved, propelled really, into one of the most productive collaborative conversations I have ever witnessed.
I have a feeling the Lit Fest will be something like that - a restorative, illuminating, blissful event.
Please do share about it. I look forward to it and wish you the very best of times.